LONDON (AP) — A team of French officials went to London Monday on a mission to make Paris the European Union's financial hub once Britain leaves the EU.
Officials including Deputy Paris Mayor Jean-Louis Missika and Valerie Pecresse, head of the wider Ile-de-France region, met with representatives of firms based in the City, London's financial district.
Many banks and other firms are considering moving jobs from London once the U.K. leaves the 28-nation bloc and its single market in goods and services.
Frankfurt is also trying to woo companies away from Britain, but Pecresse says Paris has the advantage in culture and lifestyle. She asked reporters: "When was the last time you took your partner off for a weekend in Frankfurt?"
Missika said Brexit was a "once-in-a-century opportunity" for Paris.
Some companies say France's robust labor protections and tough regulation are a deterrent, but Missika said "we have started to change our regulations."
"We are here to show what Paris has to offer, we are also here to listen," he said.
Britain's Conservative government plans to trigger two years of EU exit talks by March 31, and says it wants to retain the closest possible trade ties with the bloc once it leaves.
Pro-EU lawmakers in Britain fear the government has made that impossible by insisting on a "hard Brexit" in which the U.K. leaves the EU single market and customs union in order to halt the free movement of people from other member states to Britain.
Opposition legislators are attempting to amend a bill currently before Parliament that authorizes the start of EU exit talks, seeking to ensure they get a say on the final divorce deal.
But lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to back the bill in its first House of Commons test last week, and it is unlikely many will change their minds when it comes up for vote again Wednesday.
Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that lawmakers should respect voters' choice to leave the EU.
"Our European partners now want to get on with the negotiations. So do I, and so does this House," she said.