Aeron Davis
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Visions of empire and globalization
The rise of the internationalists
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Chapter five looks at the Treasury doctrine of internationalism. If one replacement for state economic management was the financial sector, another was international business knowhow and investment. Previously, Britain had done exceedingly well out of free trade and exploiting imperial preference. From the 1980s onwards, the globalisation credo was adopted once again by Treasury officials, Thatcherites, and New Labour ministers alike. Everything was done to open up the UK economy, to encourage international investment and big foreign multinationals to set up shop.

In some cases, like car manufacturing, industry and exports were revived very positively. But overall, the story has not been so successful. Such an open economy approach did not help home-grown business innovation and expansion. Instead, more and more of UK finance, industry and real estate came to be owned by often transient non-UK multinationals and financiers. As international ownership of UK companies has increased, so manufacturing capacity and profits have been relocated abroad. Investment, productivity and home-grown supply chains have declined. It’s easier to buy, break up and sell off a company in the UK than almost any other advanced economy. Come Covid, despite having a world-leading life sciences sector, Britain didn’t have a UK-based manufacturer capable of mass-producing PPE or vaccines on home soil.

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