NEW DELHI, India—London’s mayor joked that revolutionaries had taken over Paris and told India’s investors Tuesday to look to the British capital instead, amid a row between the French government and India-born tycoon Lakshmi Mittal.
On Monday French Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg said he did not want steel giant ArcelorMittal, controlled by Mittal, in the country anymore because it did not “respect” France.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, on a trip to India where he is drumming up investments in the British capital, said he had been amazed by the statement, which he read in the Indian press on Tuesday morning.
“I see the sans-culottes appear to have captured the government in Paris. The French minister has been so eccentric to call for a massive investment to depart from France.
“I have no hesitation in saying here, ‘Venez à Londres, mes amis!’ (Come to London, my friends),” he told a meeting of business leaders in the capital New Delhi.
“Come to the business capital of the world,” Johnson added.
The “sans-culottes,” meaning without “knee breeches,” were the most militant supporters of the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century.
Johnson, a gaffe-prone politician whose popularity has soared after the successful London Olympics, added that a giant steel sculpture built by ArcelorMittal for the Games symbolized the friendship between London and India.
Lakshmi Mittal, who ranks 21st on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people, is engaged in a fight with French ministers over plans to close a plant in the Lorraine region of the country.
Mittal was due to talk to President Francois Hollande on the issue later on Tuesday.
Johnson, who headed to Hyderabad on Tuesday and will later visit Mumbai, is on a six-day tour of India with a large trade mission to boost investment in London.
He told reporters that student visa restrictions needed to be revised after the number of Indians applying for degrees in Britain fell nine per cent this year and was set to fall further in 2013.
Tighter visa rules are sending the “wrong signal” to foreign students and new laws preventing students staying after graduating unless they get a $32,000 job were putting many off.
“It’s crazy that we should be losing India’s top talent and the global leaders of the future to Australia and the United States,” he said.