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Paris must not yield during post-Brexit competition for banks, French lawmaker says

Paris holds all the aces over its European counterparts in luring U.K.-based bankers away from London throughout Brexit negotiations, according to the president of the Île-de-France region which includes the French capital.

"(Brexit) started a process of competition between all of the metropolises of continental Europe and in this competition I think Paris has got many assets. I want, of course, to take advantage of this situation, but not to punish the British people … Just because I don't think Paris should yield in front of the competition," Valérie Pécresse, president of the Île-de-France region, told CNBC on Monday.

Pécresse argued that the French capital has the best negotiating position in comparison to its European rivals attempting to attract financial industry workers away from London. However, she did concede that a priority for France should be to bolster ties with Germany in order to strengthen the "main pillar of Europe" after the U.K. has withdrawn from the European Union (EU).

Brexit passed its first legislative hurdle on February 1 after the U.K. parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of starting the formal two-year negotiation process with the EU. Britain could be set to complete the legislative process by March 7 which would meet Prime Minister Theresa May's self-imposed April deadline to begin divorce talks with the bloc.

Several U.K.-based banks are poised to announce at least part of their business operations are being moved from London to another European city, with countries on the continent scrambling to attract top financial officials.

Le Pen victory 'shouldn't happen'

Meanwhile, the two major contenders in the race to become president of France launched their respective campaigns in the city of Lyon on Sunday.

The current favorites to reach the second and final round of voting in May are the former economy minister and independent candidate, Emmanuel Macron, and leader of the anti-immigration and populist National Front party, Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen continues to be the political frontrunner with 25 percent of the vote with Macron slightly behind on 20.5 percent, according to the latest poll conducted by polling firm Ifop.

The center-right candidate, Francois Fillon, dropped to third in the polls and has been under increasing pressure to withdraw as a candidate altogether following a scandal regarding accusations he gave fake jobs to his wife as his parliamentary assistant.

"Such a withdrawal would leave (Fillon's) party, Les Républicains, in disarray only two months before the first round of the elections on April 23, and there is no obvious substitute," Philippe Gudin, chief European economist at Barclays, said in a note.

"Last week's surveys pointed to a second round between Le Pen and Macron, with Macron winning by a wide margin, 65/35. However, the opinion remains very volatile and uncertainty remains high," he concluded.

Pécresse, a senior Les Republicans politician, suggested that every party would be working hard to avoid the prospect of a Le Pen presidency.

"Well, you know … I didn't believe in Brexit and I didn't believe in (President Donald) Trump's election so nobody can tell for sure but we are going to work a lot against it. All of us, all of the Republican party (and) the Republican voters so I think, well, (a Le Pen victory) shouldn't happen," she said.