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The UK’s strategic muddle: Surrendering our defense companies to foreign predators as war rages on in Europe is an act of self-harm, says ALEX BRUMMER
Making head or tail of the government’s production strategy is quite difficult. In a fit of decision making, it has come to fight for the defense of jobs, capacity and the common good in the steel industry.
But at the same time, it gives the green light for the time being for agreements on national security in the midst of a war against a ruthless enemy in Europe.
Formerly neutral states, including Sweden and Finland, are knocking on NATO’s door and defense budgets are being increased.
Going cheap: The government has given the go-ahead to private equity minds Advent to acquire Ultra Electronics and it’s set to let Meggitt fall into the hands of Parker Hannifin
So what is the UK doing?
It has backed the acquisition of the masters of submarine detection, Ultra Electronics, by private equity ghoul Advent.
And it’s poised to drop aerospace engineer Meggitt into the hands of American competitor Parker Hannifin.
For the record, British satellite specialist Inmarsat is warming up to be swallowed by American rival Viasat.
Even if the national security risks of these deals are brushed aside, the commercial disadvantage to Britain is manifold.
Intellectual property will fall into overseas hands, weakening the supply chain for the UK’s advanced defense industries, weakening the corporate tax base and undermining headquarters services.
The status of the London Stock Exchange will decline. So what is the thought process leading the government?
In the case of steel, it is ready to intervene regardless of the economic and political costs.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng made no secret of his determination to support manufacturing in the UK – ready to rescue companies within the Liberty Steel group should they become insolvent.
And he has indicated that the government will provide direct energy subsidies to steel producers if rising costs threaten their survival. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Secretary of State for International Trade, is eager to ban cheap overseas imports that could undermine jobs in Yorkshire, Humberside and South Wales.
So much so that the UK is willing to join the World Trade Organization’s long list of sinners circumventing global trade rules. It was the enforcement of the punitive charges that ultimately led to ethics adviser Lord Geidt resigning from Downing Street, saying he had been placed in a ‘horrible’ position.
The contrast between the willingness to crack down on trade rules to preserve the steel industry and the dastardly approach to takeovers of companies vital to the UK’s security could not be greater.
Kwarteng has the potential buyers of Ultra, Meggitt and Inmarsat climbing through many hoops. Rather than imposing detailed terms, it would make more sense to simply block the deals.
He may be determined to show that Britain is open to business and foreign investment. But we know how well that turned out when Arm Holdings was sold to SoftBank.
The UK is engaged in an act of self-harm.
Who would have thought that fancy ice cream could become a hot geopolitical problem?
The attempt by the Vermont-based board of Ben & Jerry’s to ban sales of its product in Israel due to its availability in the West Bank has been thwarted.
Unilever has sold the brand in Israel to Avi Zinger, owner of American Quality Products, the local licensee.
The product remains the same but is marketed under the Hebrew and Arabic names in Israel and the West Bank.
With Unilever no longer owning Ben & Jerry’s in the Holy Land, Vermont’s board of directors no longer has a say.
Unilever makes it clear that it has no truck with anti-Semitism or the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
It will continue to operate in Israel, where it employs 2,000 people.
If it refocuses on healthier living, could it signal the future place of its thriving ice cream brands? Just ask.
About 24 hours after Camelot tried to convince the world that it had been robbed of the National Lottery by the Gambling Commission, the courts have ruled decisively in favor of challenger Allwyn.
That paves the way for the Czech operator to meet the technological challenge of modernizing or reconfiguring 44,000 terrestrial terminals and digital infrastructure.
Charities should not wait.