Blog: Katy AskewOsborne overplays Britishness of United Biscuits

Katy Askew | 20 November 2015

That politicians are selective with the truth is pretty much a given. But it did make this pundit chuckle to hear UK Chancellor George Osborne describe United Biscuits as a "great British company"... Er, yes... one that is owned by Turkish multinational Yildiz Holding.

United Biscuits was announcing that it has witnessed an increase in exports – up 50% over the last three years. The UK subsidiary of Yildiz said that it intends to grow sales of its "iconic" British brands such as McVitie's Digestives by a further 50% to 2020. To support this growth, the company will invest a further GBP15m in its UK manufacturing sites next year.

Commenting on the news, Osborne said: "It’s fantastic to see a great British company like United Biscuits making this commitment today to boost exports of their iconic range of brands over the next five years.

“Their bold decision-making shows that Britain is standing tall in the world and demonstrates that businesses built here are able to capitalise on opportunities in global markets – a key part of this government’s plan to build a stronger economy.”

Very significantly for the UK economy, UB actually acknowledged that as its export business grows it could move production overseas. Alongside all the growth rhetoric, UB CEO Jeff van der Eems snuck in a somewhat telling line: “Whether through exporting or manufacturing locally, our international development model is central to UB’s strategy for growth.”

It is great news for workers at UB's production UK sites that the company is investing in production in the country. But – as the case of Mondelez International-owned Cadbury demonstrates - as part of a much larger foreign-owned corporation, if it becomes financially expedient to shift production elsewhere then production will shift.

I'm sure Mr. Osborne doesn't need lessons on free market capitalism and the power of big business – but the Rule Britannia hype is perhaps being somewhat overplayed by the chancellor of the exchequer.

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