Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with you
For some reason I found myself humming this old song from “Stealers Wheel” this morning after I read that there are discussions going on behind closed doors between Germany & France about creating a NEW EUROPE, a new EuroZone, one that will aid them both, possibly a two tier EuroZone. I must confess I am somewhat alarmed by this as for the last 35+ years we’ve all seen the rise of the political elite across Europe, the appalling wasteland that these people seem to have created and the absurd evolving doctrines that they seem to represent.
These Europeans speak of democracy and yet there is a European Parliament in place (led by undemocratically elected men such as Van Rompuy) where these sort of issues should be debated. They speak of transparency and fair play but like one of our previous PM’s (who is now Chairman of Surrey CCC) said it would appear that they don’t know how to hold a ‘cricket bat’. They’re just friendly Germans and French who want to sit down to discuss the most important issues of the day. But before doing so I think it’s important to remind ourselves just what has happened here.From a UK standpoint we were promised transparency, freedom of trade, fair trade, equal say (despite the one leg in one leg out scenario that the EU/Euro scenario has created for us), self-determination, a common employment zone and a host of other things. Our own policy in parallel has been to enhance an already transparent market place by encouraging overseas businesses to do business with us and in many cases use the UK financial markets strengths to raise capital through the London Stock Exchange either through the Full List (the Americans call it the main board) or on the Alternative Investment Market (known as AIM although at times it’s pretty aimless).
Over the years our takeover laws (M&A, mergers and acquisitions) have remained transparent (apologies for the repetition but this is the single word that the EU supposedly stands for) and countless european businesses have snapped away at our commerce. In the past it was Lord Weinstock’s GEC (the first company to put £1bn CASH on its balance sheet) that was absorbed into Siemens, then there was a merger between Wiggins Teape Appleton creating Arjo Wiggins, Blue Circle into Lafarge thus creating the world’s largest cement business, countless utilities takeovers with instigators such as EDF absorbing more utilities, Santander exploiting the weaknesses in Abbey National, Bradford and dear Mr Bingley alongside Alliance & Leicester, etc etc; I have touched upon a few examples of how the Europeans have quite fairly exploited our FREE market. Many other foreigners have enjoyed our patronage and the recent job losses at Cadbury’s have dealt a heavy blow to cross-atlantic M&A relations but……and this is the big BUT, I cannot ever recollect one single successful takeover inside EU by a UK business. Admittedly there are goliaths like HSBC that are found in many european cities but M&A deals (?) , well there are none that I can think of, any that can roll off the top of my head.I may be blinkered but wasn’t it the attraction of FREE TRADE in the 1975 Referendum on the Common Market, that enticed us all to vote YES. I’ve sat and waited for these european opportunities these past 35+ years and although the pro-EU lobby constantly remind us that Europe is our largest trading partner I keep thinking that pre-Common Market massive trade was still being done across the Channel but with 27 individual nations. I suppose it would rather be like asking the Chinese to name their biggest trading partner other than USA & Europe; one wouldn’t expect them to respond that the new zone known as the Emerging Markets is their newest largest trading partner, or would you? In truth the concept of a FREE labour zone is also false. Countless professional qualifications are NOT recognised across borders and there are plenty of examples of downright draconian patronising european protectionism regarding the flow of labour and it’s all one way. Even hundreds of thousands of french youth have taken full advantage of the umbilical cord that they call the Trans Marche link to take advantage of our free market economy and fairer employment laws.
It’s certainly something to think about over the coming days as we can only imagine the scintillating conversations taking place BEHIND CLOSED DOORS somewhere in Europe.
My mind has now moved to that opening sequence in that great english movie THE ITALIAN JOB with Sir Michael ‘blow the ****dy doors off’ Caine when the Italian mafia rolled a Jaguar E-Type and an Aston off the cliff……life hasn’t changed much has it?
ps…(oops, just remembered that British Airways and Iberia have merged quite recently, how long will that last?)