Well, that appears to be the reaction so far of wealthy French ex-pats who have turned away from the land of Moliere and fine wine for other climes in order to flee the French taxman. New president Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to cut, or at least change, some of the more crushing taxes on wealthy people to lure them back to France. If he wants to revive the French economy, this has to make sense. An even more obvious policy would be a dramatic tax cut across the board, in a flat tax fashion, with the overall burden sharply reduced. (Waiting for hell to freeze over? Ed).
The effects of French hostility to the rich, or least les nouveaux riches, is pretty obvious here in Britain. The areas around Chelsea, South Kensington and Knightsbridge are full of young French people who work in the capital, such as in the Canary Wharf financial district. A number of big banks, with their fancy derivatives trading platforms, operate out of London and French education still churns out the sort of highly qualified maths graduates who work in sectors like hedge funds and futures markets. I don’t know the exact figures – who does? – but I have read that upwards of around 350,000 French people live in London today.
I remember a while back that the French model and occasional actress, Laetitia Casta, left France after shortly having been chosen as the model for the French revolutionary heroine, Marianne. She apparently quit the nation for tax reasons, although she also denied that as her reason, according to the Wikipedia entry linked to here.
Of course, there is no excuse whatever for Brits to guffaw about this. Lots of Britons quit these shores every year for nations like Canada and New Zealand, where the taxes are are sometimes lower and the opportunities for raising a family etc appear more easy. As one senior lawyer told me this morning, the best advice to any rich person these days is to try and head for Switzerland. Britain may be, temporarily, a haven for some City pros like the private equity bosses, but for how long?