The French foreign minister says France will welcome any businesses that leave the UK, should the country exit the European Union, British Broadcasting Corporation reported on Wednesday.
Reacting to David Cameron’s speech on Europe, Laurent Fabius said, “If the UK decides to leave the EU, we will roll out the red carpet to businessmen.”
But business groups in the UK were more supportive of Cameron’s speech.
The prime minister has pledged to hold fresh negotiations and an “in/out” referendum on UK membership of the EU.
“You can’t do Europe a la carte,” Fabius said, responding to the pledges.
“I’ll take an example which our British friends will understand. Let’s imagine Europe is a football club and you join, but once you’re in it you can’t say let’s play rugby.”
Fabius’s remark about the red carpet was in response to an invitation made by the UK Prime Minister last year.
David Cameron said then that he would roll out a red carpet for any entrepreneurs wanting to leave France because of increased wealth taxes.
But the UK’s biggest business organisation, the CBI, expressed support.
“The Prime Minister rightly recognised the benefits of retaining membership of what must be a reformed European Union,” said the director general, John Cridland.
“The single market is fundamental to the UK’s success, but closer union of the eurozone is not for us.”
Well-known venture capitalist, Jon Moulton, founder of Better Capital, also welcomed David Cameron’s speech.
“It was definitely in the direction we’d favour,” he told the BBC.
“It’s about getting the EU to be less bureaucratic, and to stop them shoving some legislation down out throats.”
But Moulton said he was concerned about the uncertain environment for business over the next five years.
“The timescale will be protracted, and the only certainty is that we’ll now have five years of uncertainty. It’s pretty adverse for people investing in the UK that there’s not going to be a decision for five years.”
There was also reaction from business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum, currently taking place in Davos, Switzerland.
David Sproul, the UK boss of accountancy firm Deloitte was also critical, citing the years of uncertainty that now lie ahead for foreign investors in the UK.
“The Europe debate does not help to create certainty,” he said.
“When I talk to US clients who have not been immersed in the European debate as we have, they say that what they need is clarity. There is no question it will impact business – it will hit investment into the UK,” he told BBC News at the gathering held annually at the Swiss ski resort.