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UK trade

End the corporate car boot sale

Ultra Electronics makes components for the Eurofighter. Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto/Getty Images

The government’s Global Britain mantra has turned our economy into a free-for-all, says Ben Marlow in The Daily Telegraph. Companies from every sector are being “picked off at will” by overseas buyers. But it isn’t protectionism to think strategically important firms need to stay British. In 2014 Pfizer tried to buy AstraZeneca. “David Cameron rolled out the red carpet” and George Osborne suggested the sale was in Britain’s economic interest. But if the deal had taken place, “the world might have got one vaccine not two”. And what will happen if the private-equity consortium that’s currently after Morrisons succeeds? If another crisis came along, it might put its bottom line ahead of keeping the nation fed.

This isn’t to deny how “vital” foreign investment is: Siemens doubling the size of its wind turbine factory in Hull is fantastic news. But at a time when the military might of America “is under serious question”, we can’t give up our defence to “unaccountable, financially motivated foreign investors”. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has rightly blocked Ultra Electronics, which is involved in the Trident and Eurofighter programmes, from sharing sensitive information with a prospective US-owned buyer. Keeping up the “glorified car boot sale” would mean national self-harm “on a grand scale”.