“Freedom is a very good horse, but to ride somewhere.” Matthew Arnold
BRITAIN FOR SALE: British Companies in Foreign Hands - the Hidden Threat to Our Economy, by Alex Brummer
The American writer, Ludwell Denny, wrote these arrogant words and notice of intent many years ago: “There may have been some excuse for Britain on her poor island to go imperialist. There is none for us on a near-continent on which we thrive. But we are not without cunning. We shall not make Britain's mistake. Too wise to try to govern the world, we shall merely own it.” What this man seems to have forgotten is that the American economic miracle was created, not by God as so many imagine, but by the British, by the English and the Scots who settled there. America was a colony of the British Crown for over 150 years before achieving independence. Pride comes before a fall, as the saying goes, and who can say how great that fall will be and who will go down with them?
Why should it worry us that a great part of the British economy has been acquired by not just American, but Chinese, Indian, German, French and other foreign companies? They have, especially over the last twenty years or so, bought up many household names. Despite the successes of the boom years 1997 to 2007, more and more of our more successful companies, national treasures, have moved with unseemly haste into foreign hands. The opening up of the UK and the City of London, especially by Margaret Thatcher, meant that by 2007 half the output of the British economy was foreign owned. The main objection to this must be that foreign owners will be inclined, unlike us, to put the interests of their own countries first. When considering job cuts, new investment, Britain will lose out because their own populations and homelands will be their first concern. In a time of deep depression, the proverbial chickens will come home to roost.
It now appears that our British war medals are to be made in France rather than in the far superior workshops of Birmingham's historic jewellery quarter. This is demonstration, if any were needed, that civil servants in Whitehall care little for the traditions and real values of our country. At the time of writing the London Stock Exchange is being prepared for a possible sell-off to the German Börse in Frankfurt. Carsten Kengeter, chief executive of Deutsche Börse, caused outrage when suggesting this was after all “God’s will”. The chemist chain Boots has now gone, ICI has been broken up, HP sauce has disappeared from Birmingham along with Cadbury's chocolate, sold out to Kraft Foods (now to become Modelez). It was this last buy-up that provided Alex Brummer with the real incentive to write his book. More often than not, the moves abroad will be linked to tax concessions that invariably result in lost tax revenues to the UK, as for example with the Spanish acquisition of BAA and Abbey National. Surely, nothing will be left of Britain to sell soon?
What is especially irritating is where, even within the much lauded free market of the EU, reciprocal transactions are not permitted by certain countries. France has bought up our energy companies and transport utilities, but will not allow us to the same over there. Understandably, they have put national security considerations first. Have we gone completely mad or are we so hard up that we really need to ‘sell off the family silver’? Decisions important to our own economy, to our national interest, are now made in Germany, Australia, Dubai, Canada, USA and many other places. A sale of the London Stock Exchange to Germany seems in the offing. Day by day, the profits from these companies flow away from these shores abroad making us the poorer.
Brummer ought to have come down much harder on governments and those ― often families whose forebears founded the companies in the first place and grew them to be successful ― who have sold off these national assets at knock-down prices to the highest bidder. It surely is treachery of the worst kind. Nevertheless, the book is full of facts with which we ought all to be acquainted in view of the continued race to sell off what is left of Britain and the current EU trade deal with the USA in the process of being agreed ― albeit, in secret!
From the Preface:
“As citizens of the United Kingdom most of us take an enormous pride in the traditions of the country in which we live. We may not, like our American cousins, plant the national flag in our gardens or wear the national emblem as lapel badges or brooches. But we relish the pageantry of public life, take enormous pride in our public buildings, are generally supportive of the monarchy and follow our national sports teams with pride and passion. ...
Yet, despite all this, we have become extraordinarily careless when it comes to the ownership of assets. It is astonishing to think that down the decades we have sold off almost everything we associate with Britain's greatness, from our ports ― the source of our maritime traditions ― to the electricity companies which provide us with light and warmth. Distinctive red London double-decker buses now ply Trafalgar Square and the sights of the capital wearing the livery of Deutsche Bahn, the German rail operator.
It was not until the autumn of 2009, when the American food company Kraft bid for emblematic chocolate company Cadbury, that any awareness of foreign ownership of apparently British enterprises was kindled. ...
Nevertheless, the zeitgeist remained intact. As far as those in authority were concerned, in free and global markets the tide of capital was not to be stemmed. What was in the interest of global finance was also in the national interest, even if it meant the boards responding to short-termism. Somehow, the contrast between the permanence of personal ownership ― as in the nurture and care of land ― and short-termism of the stock markets was not properly understood or debated.”
Comments on the book:
“A very readable book ... Years of experience on Fleet Street have served [Brummer] well - he has a serious yet very approachable style in giving us his knowledge” ― Bookbrunch
“A fascinating new book”― Money Week
“An important and enlightening read”― Good Book Guide
“Alex Brummer is one of the UK's leading economics commentators and journalists. Since May 2000, he has been the City Editor of the Daily Mail. Before this he worked at the Guardian. His articles can be read in a daily column on a range of issues related to economics and finance. He is a successful author, having also written The Crunchand The Great Pensions Robbery. Brummer was named Financial Writer of the Year at the London Press Club in 2010.”
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"For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." Gospel of Matthew
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