As the industry descends en masse to Cannes for Mipim (wash your mouth out with soap and water Private Eye for referring to it as a “booze and hooker fest”), two issues will be top of mind, if not the official agenda - neither directly property related.
The Brexit question and escalating migrant crisis have dominated the media in recent weeks, and the former at least is likely to be hard to swerve in the many panel discussions and roundtables that take place over the course of Mipim.
Although I fully understand why some want to keep the debate around its potential impact to a minimum - just how long is a piece of string, after all? - it is one we need to get our heads around quickly if we are to vote with them as well as our hearts come June.
Some are already trying to. I detect a slight shift in sentiment from a few weeks ago when the ‘remain’ camp had the upper hand, as people start to interrogate whether they should really stick with the status quo.
As Irvine Sellar put it to me this week (over afternoon tea at The Shard, no less): “I’m on the border, hovering towards stay, but it wouldn’t take a lot to push me towards out. I think we would survive and probably do very well as an independent country. I can see a lot of very persuasive reasons for not being in.”
Nick Leslau is also in two minds, admitting: “My head is saying stay in, but my heart says get out of Dodge.”
Despite Mark Carney’s warning that Brexit posed “the biggest domestic risk to financial stability”, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if other property folk wavered over the coming weeks.
In the meantime, it is becoming increasingly clear that Brexit and the migrant crisis are inextricably linked. In the last week or so, we’ve heard dire warnings that should the UK leave the EU, the French will no longer police their ports and refugee camps could end up being built in Kent. Given the shocking news that UK authorities were so overwhelmed last summer that they housed some migrants in a freight shed, we should be under no illusion that we would make a better fist of things than the French.
As our reporter discovered when I sent him to the Jungle in Calais on the very day the French authorities upheld a judgment to demolish it, the makeshift community may look like a perverse take on a festival campsite, but it works. His report and the accompanying pictures make for compelling and unsettling reading, as does our report on the impact of Germany’s open-door refugee policy on the country’s residential market.
Our reporters faced different challenges. In Calais, seasoned foreign correspondents warned our team it was too dangerous to venture into the camp, and in Berlin our reporter was questioned by the authorities for 20 minutes after he tried to gain access to a hotel housing migrants. However, the dangers they faced pale into insignificance compared with the perilous journeys - and squalid living conditions - of the migrants they spoke to.
It’s a sobering thought and one we should ponder as we’re quaffing champagne in Cannes.