Douglas Carswell

20 JUL 2016

Britain should welcome foreign investors

We were told Brexit would discourage foreign investment. The takeover of Arm by Japan's SoftBank shows what a fiction that was. Investors abroad want to keep buying into Britain. The question is: will our new government let them?

Theresa May welcomed the Arm deal. But she has also said she will assess foreign takeover bids on a case-by-case basis. She has now created a department for industrial strategy. The signs are a little ominous.

Asset stripping can of course be damaging. But there's also no reason why a foreign corporation should be more predatory than a British bidder. Attacking foreign investors would undermine the broader post-Brexit message that Britain is open for business.

More fundamentally, blocking takeovers is an assault on private property. Imagine your pension was invested in a British company that sparked foreign interest. Imagine the takeover bid made the share price spike (like Arm's), offering you a huge financial boost for your retirement. You'd probably want to sell. Why should the Government be able to stop you?

There's also the question of our investments abroad. British pension funds rely on foreign markets to diversify their portfolios. Emerging markets need British capital, and British investors can make good returns. If we put controls on foreign investment, what's to stop other countries doing the same to us?

The idea of 'industrial strategy' has a bad pedigree. It didn't work for Labour in the 1970s. It doesn't work in Defence. Government attempts to pick winners invariably produce losers – George Osborne's horrendous Hinkley Point deal being a case in point.

Micromanaging the economy from the centre is bound to fail. Concentrating control is the problem, not the solution. The PM is right to want to spread wealth. The way to achieve it is to disperse power.

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