“Foreign Companies Rule Britain”: So What’s The Point Of The Referendum?

“One of the main obligations of a Government is to protect the nation’s sovereignty. If it fails to do so, it forfeits the right to rule”. So Richard Perle, the American political advisor & consultant, has declared. His compatriot Noam Chomsky, the renowned philosopher, historian and social critic, has expressed unease about the potential consequences of a loss of sovereignty, which – he fears – “can lead to liberalization imposed in the interests of the powerful”.

The campaigners on both sides of the Referendum debate disagree fiercely about the impact that staying in or leaving the EU could have on the UK’s autonomy & its international status. The “Out” (Brexit) supporters insist these will be further diminished unless the country detaches itself from the “political integration project” planned by the Brussels bureaucrats – whereas the “Remainers” concur with the opinion of Jose Manuel Barroso (the former European Commission President & ex-Portuguese Prime Minister) that “In the age of globalization, pooled sovereignty means more power, not less”.

The right-wing Conservative MP, John Redwood, acknowledges that the Westminster Parliament is still able at the moment to “repeal or amend the 1972 European Communities Act, the fount of the EU’s power in the UK” but also asserts that “if many more years pass”, this option will no longer be available”. He considers that “ a government can look impotent if it cannot extradite who it wants, control its own borders, decide what it’s interest rates should be, how banks should be regulated, or settle the price of energy and how it is to be produced”.

Redwood will have taken note, therefore, of the view expressed on March 16th to the BBC’s legal correspondent, Clive Coleman, by Professor Takis Tridimas, chair of European law at King’s College London, that “Parliament can’t pick and choose which provisions of EU law to follow (or not). It has to obey the rules or leave the club”- the latter being precisely what Redwood and the advocates for “Out” hope will happen after the vote on June 23rd.

What Redwood appears to have overlooked is that – according to the financial journalist Alex Brummer in the “Daily Mail” – Britain’s supposed independence is already something of an illusion. Brummer is the author of “Britain For Sale: British Companies In Foreign Hands – The Hidden Threat To Our Economy”. In his book, he states that “Today, foreign companies control vast swathes of the British economy, from the National Lottery to airlines, high tech companies and gas & electricity suppliers”.

Roughly half our essential services – including water, bridges, municipal housing and the postal system – “now have overseas owners who are out to make fat profits as speedily as possible and are not as concerned as a British company would be about public opinion. They owe no particular allegiance to this country”. Brummer regards as ironic the fact that “nationalised industries privatised only a few years ago are effectively in the hands of foreign states who control or own the companies that have taken over Britain’s utilities”.

This trend has been highlighted in another book on the same theme, “Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs To Someone Else”, by James Meek, who has estimated that “Collectively, European state railways now own more than a quarter of Britain’s passenger train system”. One example is Germany’s “Deutsche Bahn” which acquired Arriva, the bus and transport group, in 2010, the profits from which (The Guardian commentator John Harris has sardonically observed) “will presumably contribute to enterprises such as the redevelopment of Stuttgart Central Station and the improvement of services from Mainz”.

How remarkable, Harris added, that “railways which once embodied British genius should have become mere outposts of other countries economic empires”. Privatisation, Meek has proclaimed, has been a scam: “The faceless state bureaucrats have been replaced by faceless private bureaucrats and big foreign corporations. We are being made tenants in our own land, defined by the string of private fees we pay to exist here.

As newspapers such as the Daily Mirror, Daily Express & The Independent have noted with increasing alarm. most “Great British Brands”- as well as the country’s essential services- now seem to be run from abroad: A selection from the extensive list includes: Branston pickle (acquired by the Japanese food manufacturer Mizkan ); Golden Shred Marmalade (US multinational Hain Celestial); Weetabix (the Chinese Company Bright Foods); Rolls Royce (BMW);  Newcastle Brown Ale (Heineken); Jaguar Land Rover (Tata Motors Ltd of India); Cadburys (Kraft Cheese, USA); Boots (Walgreens Boots Alliance: HQ: Deerfield, Illinois); the National Lottery (The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Canada); Raleigh Cycles (Dutch group Acceil); Dulux Paints (Dutch company Akzo Nobel); Heathrow Airport (an international consortium comprising, among others, Spain’s Ferrovial, Quatar Holdings LLC & the China Investment Corporation); Gatwick & London City Airports (Global Infrastructure Partners, USA; the South Korean National Pension Service is also a major investor); Npower (part of the German power giant RWE); Scottish Power (Spain’s Iberdrola);London Electricity (a UK subsidiary of the French state controlled energy company EDF); 02 (Spain’s Telefonica); Channel Five (Viacom Media Group, USA); Thames Water (Macquarie Group, Australia); Yorkshire Water (Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management); Northumbrian Water (Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings, Hong Kong); Bournemouth Water (Sembcorp, Singapore).

The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has been lambasted by the Guardian columnist, Aditya Chakrabortty (May 24th) for continuing to “flog off the country’s public assets to raise immediate cash and so meet his debt targets”. Last year it was “our remaining stake in the Royal Mail and our shares in Eurostar”. Next for sale will be “Channel 4, the National Air Traffic Control, the Ordinance Survey, the Land Registry (the official record of property ownership in England & Wales) and communal necessities such as our public libraries and swimming pools”. If all this goes ahead it will be “Nothing more than legalised larceny.”.

According to another two Guardian journalists (David Leigh & Richard Norton-Taylor), the UK anyway surrendered its sovereignty long ago – to the USA, for whom we are “a client state”. Britain (they have contended) cannot use its nuclear weapons without US permission, cannot expel the US from its bases on British territory or control what it does there and is totally dependent on intelligence provided by the Americans for determining the UK’s foreign policy and without which it cannot commit the nation’s military to combat missions abroad.

Filed under: Politics | Posted on May 31st, 2016 by Colin D Gordon

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