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5 April, 2016 - 22:36 By Kate Sweeney

UK firms urged to take a closer look at ‘innovative’ France

For many UK businesses a period of slow growth combined with strict labour laws has led to a lack of appetite to invest in France, but the reality is far more positive now in the run up to the EU Referendum.

That is the view of two leading corporate lawyers from FIDAL, the number one business law firm in France and continental Europe, who have been on a week-long visit to leading UK law firm Mills & Reeve, anchored in Cambridge, Norwich and other leading UK centres. 

The two firms signed a memorandum of understanding in 2014 and have a burgeoning relationship with referrals flowing both ways across the Channel.

Anne Fréchette-Kerbrat, a Paris-based corporate partner specialising in cross-border deals and co-head of FIDAL’s UK Desk, said: “Many UK businesses assume that France is a poor place to invest but they’re wrong.

“One of the main reasons for a more positive outlook is the French Government’s serious attempts to change the labour laws, including the much-maligned 35 hour working week.

“The Government is already allowing more exceptions to the 35-hour week and consenting to more flexibility in the system generally.”

Peter Moore, a corporate partner from Rennes and co-head of FIDAL’s UK Desk, added: “As well as greater flexibility in terms of our labour laws we have placed a great emphasis on innovation in France over the last few years. Indeed, we are third, behind only Japan and the US, when it comes to leading innovative companies.

“It’s also heartening to see high-profile business leaders including, for example, the executive chairman of CISCO, John Chambers, referring to France as ‘tomorrow’s Silicon Valley’.”

One example of this innovative approach is FIDAL’s recent investment in an equity stake in crowdfunding platform Capitall.

Tom Pickthorn, head of Mills & Reeve’s European desk, concluded: “It was interesting to hear France’s economy minister saying he would roll out the ‘red carpet’ to London’s bankers if the UK voted to leave the EU but what we and our clients are finding is that the welcome signs are up all over France already for switched-on, forward thinking businesses.”

• PHOTOGRAPH: Peter Moore, Tom Pickthorn and Anne Fréchette-Kerbrat

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