Just for a change this is not an ‘England Watch’ piece but we thought it worth bringing to your attention as it complements our earlier article!
“ Just for a moment, imagine being a tourist in search of the full British experience. Where would you start? Well, you might take a sight-seeing trip around London on a red double-decker bus.
You’d possibly visit a quintessentially British store, such as Boots the chemist, Selfridges or Harrods, before having a proper English tea at the Savoy, Fortnum & Mason or the Dorchester.
You’d almost certainly go home, via a British airport, thinking you’d seen a slice of the real Britain. But, in one sense at least, you’d be totally wrong.
That bus you boarded at Trafalgar Square is run by a German company. Boots fell to the Italians in 2007. Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and the Savoy are owned by Canadians; Harrods has been bought by a firm based in Qatar; the Dorchester by one based in Brunei. As for our airports, most of them are now run by a Spanish firm.
Maybe a tourist wouldn’t care all that much, even if he knew. But should we? After all, does it make any real difference if a British company has a foreign master?
For the past three decades, the UK has had a completely relaxed attitude about selling off its assets to companies based abroad. Indeed, most of the time, the swallowing up of yet another great British institution barely makes a headline.
We may be a nation of homeowners, but we’ve lost our taste for ownership of our own economy and public services — from once-great manufacturers such as ICI to most of the companies that deliver our electricity, water and gas.
Even this week, it became clear that the Government is happy to consider letting a Russian firm, the one behind the Chernobyl accident, run some of Britain’s next generation of nuclear power stations. In fact, to date, we’ve sold off more than half our assets to foreign owners.”
“Meanwhile, elsewhere in Britain, one great company after another was being blithely auctioned off Jaguar Land Rover (to India),
Asda (to the U.S.),
MG Rover (to China),
P&O Ports (to Dubai),
British Airports Authority (to Spain),
Corus (formerly British Steel, to India),
British Energy (to France),
and lottery operator Camelot (to Canada).