Thursday, February 24, 2005

We have become more powerful IV

"And for all of those that say, if you look at the last thirty years, we have lost power to Brussels, actually it isn’t true. In the last, certainly in the last eight years, as we, the Labour government, have been more involved in Europe, so we have become more powerful and more prosperous, better able, literally to implement a patriotic case for the European Union."

Jack Straw
Foreign Secretary

BBC Today Programme, 9 February 2005

In the Telegraph business section today we read an account of how a bid by Peugeot's sole British car plant to build a successor to the popular 206 and benefit from a near-£200m investment was hampered by Brussels bureaucrats taking two years to grant state aid.

The future of the Peugeot plant at Ryton, near Coventry, has been the source of speculation because Peugeot has declined to commit to building another car there apart from its ageing 206 model.

Jean-Martin Folz, Peugeot's chief executive, said yesterday that the factory had been one of several Peugeot plants in the running to build the new model – dubbed the 207 – in 2002. Peugeot applied for EU state aid for Ryton to underwrite a £191m investment. But by the time the EU agreed a €21m (£14.4m) grant, the 207 had been allocated to other plants in France and Slovakia.

Mr Folz said the EU, not Whitehall, was to blame for the delay. Company sources said the grant had been the longest to win approval that the Department of Trade and Industry had ever experienced. The EU commission did not comment last night.

But then the commission does not need to comment. Being unelected and largely unaccountable, our government can do as it pleases. Yet, according to Jack Straw, "we have become more powerful."

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