The other week I had a letter about population growth in Muslims that was, from start to end, all made up.
This week we’ve had another one about the EU. I was going to use it with a lengthy footnote, but then decided not to – there is a real danger people would read the letter and not the footnote.
Like the sender of the Muslim letter, the writer of this one wisely chose to remain anonymous. If he reads this, I would point him to Wikipedia and Google, with the advice not to believe what he reads on the internet without checking. And “don’t be so gullible in future, you plank”.
The letter began with a straight copy and paste of an internet meme, which itself would ban its publication. It starts off (and bear in mind, none of these are true) with the claims (copied verbatim):
- Cadbury moved factory to Poland 2011 with EU grant.
- Ford Transit moved to Turkey 2013 with EU grant.
- Jaguar Land Rover has recently agreed to build a new plant in Slovakia with EU grant.
- Peugeot closed its Ryton (was Rootes Group) plant and moved production to Slovakia with EU grant.
- British Army’s new Ajax fighting vehicles are to be built in Spain using Swedish steel at the request of the EU to support jobs in Spain with EU grant, rather than Wales.
- Dyson has gone to Malaysia, with an EU loan.
- Crown Closures, Bournemouth (was Metal Box), gone to Poland with EU grant, once employed 1,200.
- Marks and Spencer manufacturing gone to Far East with EU loan.
- Hornby models gone. In fact, all toys and models now gone from UK along with the patents, all with EU grants.
- Boots, sold to Italians Stefano Pessina, who have based their HQ in Switzerland to avoid tax to the tune of £80 million a year, using an EU loan for the purchase.
The level of accuracy – and the degree to which its sender had thought it through – can be seen in the claim “Dyson has gone to Malaysia with an EU loan”. Why would the EU give anyone a loan to leave Europe? It makes no sense.
The letter goes on to say: “Name me one major technology company still running in the UK” — laughably inaccurate in an area with Alderley Park just down the road. (and AZ did not close its main centre there because of the EU, but because of its own failings). To go back to Dyson, Mr Dyson is building a £250m expansion of his Malmesbury headquarters, which will eventually take its staffing level to 3,000. Many of the new jobs are in research and engineering.
Among the letter’s other claims:
- “Cadbury moved factory to Poland 2011 with EU grant”: Cadbury was bought by US-owned Kraft, and Kraft moved production to an existing factory to save costs. Kraft is US owned, so nothing to do with the EU.
- “Jaguar Land Rover has recently agreed to build a new plant in Slovakia with EU grant”: Jaguar Land Rover did build a new factory in Slovakia, but not with an EU grant.
- Similarly; Peugeot did move production to Slovakia, but again without an EU grant.
- Ford did get a loan from the EU for the Turkish plant, which already existed so they did not move there, but the EU also loaned money to Ford UK to save its UK plant. Ford, a US company, closed it for economic reasons. Workers who had not accepted redundancy or early retirement were given jobs at Ford’s new £12m distribution centre at Southampton Docks, a new vehicle refurbishment plant at the existing site, employing 134 staff, and Ford’s other UK factories manufacturing engines, at Bridgend or Dagenham. Ford’s links with Turkey go back to 1928 and so pre-date the EU. If someone has the time, they could probably find out if the Ford distribution centre received any grants.Like many of the claims, the reality is far more complicated than the letter would indicate.
It’s true, there does seem to be an incentive for UK companies to relocate to EU member states that may have EU regional funding, and once there, they benefit from lower Eastern European labour. Obviously, some areas of the UK have such EU funding too, but not the cheaper labour. The same thing happens in the US, where states offer tax breaks and incentives for firms to move across the state line, which may sometimes be literally across the street.
- “British Army’s new Ajax fighting vehicles are to be built in Spain”: this was not at the request of the EU, but the Government, which selected Spain (despite David Cameron “hailing the £3.5bn deal as a boost for British manufacturing” according to the Daily Mirror, which is where the claim comes from). The Mirror said 100 Ajax vehicles would be “fully manufactured and assembled” in Spain, while the hulls for another 489 would be built in Spain then shipped to the UK to be completed.
- “Hornby models gone. In fact, all toys and models now gone from UK, along with the patents, all with EU grants”: This makes no sense at all and is even more untrue than some of the other claims.
A cursory glance at Wikipedia shows that in 1980 Hornby became Hornby Hobbies and in 1981 a management buyout saw the company “back on a sound footing”. It went public in 1986. It still exists and in fact has bought Lima, an Italian model railway equipment manufacturer that had previously acquired Jouef, a French manufacturer, creating a range known as Hornby International. This acquisition included the Rivarossi line of products, originally from Italy, and the Arnold brand. Hornby also took over the Spanish model railway company Electrotren, the Spanish importer for Scalextric.
Both Dyson and Hornby would appear to be British successes that should be celebrated, not used in a whinging letter listing a series of untruths as to why Europe is to blame for everything.
I’m not going to go through every false statement – most of which make no sense either – except for “Boots sold to Italians Stefano Pessina, who have based their HQ in Switzerland to avoid tax to the tune of £80 million a year, using an EU loan for the purchase.”
Stefano Pessina is a person, not a “their”. He has a degree in nuclear engineering.
In 1977, he took over his family’s pharmaceutical wholesaler in Naples and turned it into Alliance Santé. In 1997, it merged with Alliance UniChem, and he joined its board of directors. This company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Walgreens Boots Alliance, which was formed by the merger of Walgreens with its former parent Alliance Boots in 2014.
Alliance Boots was formed in 2006 by the merger of Boots Group and Alliance UniChem and in 2007 it was bought out in a private equity transaction by AB Acquisitions, led by Mr Pessina.
In a nutshell: Boots was not bought with EU money, it was bought out by its owner, a smart man who has worked hard. It is headquartered in Switzerland to avoid tax.
Some parts of the letter are true: It says: “UK airports are owned by a Spanish company, Scottish Power is owned by a Spanish company and most London buses are run by Spanish and German companies” but this is global capitalism, not the EU. Join the Communist Party if you feel strongly.
But most of the letter is poppycock. Near the end it says: “We don’t even teach electronic technology for technicians any more, due to EU regulations” – if anyone can explain where to even start with this, I’d be grateful.
This possibly gives away the age and attitude of its originator; a man in his late 50s who doesn’t understand computers, hates people staring at mobile phones and thinks British inventiveness stopped with the BSA Bantam (which was, as has since been pointed out to me, invented in Germany).
The letter makes a lot of claiming that we have no patents and no technology, apparently completely in ignorance of the fact that we lead the world in, for example, computer gaming. Manufacturing is no longer men in overalls standing at lathes, but young people in jeans and T-shirts sitting at Macs.
For example, Eidos Interactive, which developed Tomb Raider and Hitman, was British (in fact we seem to remember that its Jeremy Heath-Smith was at Mossley School for a while). David Jones is British, and founded computer game companies DMA Design, which became Rockstar North, and created Grand Theft Auto. We could go on. The UK leads the world.
Among others, Shazam is based in London – if you don’t know what it is, you shouldn’t be complaining about the UK’s lack of tech skills.
It always seems ironic that people like the person submitting this letter are railing against “them” telling us what to and hiding “the truth”, yet are quite happy to believe any old poppycock they see on social media when it agrees with what they say.