Guest column: How much of ‘our country’ will Brexit actually give us back?

What does Brexit really mean for Britain?
What does Brexit really mean for Britain?

It’s a familiar jingoistic cry of Brexiteers – ‘we’re taking our country back’.

Yet despite the flag-waving patriotism, once we’re freed from the supposed shackles of Brussels in 2020, how much of ‘our country’ will the proud and plucky British actually own?

Famous Tories of the past baulked at flogging off our assets.

Harold MacMillan resisted ‘selling off the family silver’ and even Margaret Thatcher was loathe to sell off the ‘Queen’s Head’ – the Royal Mail.

But today what used to be ‘our country’ is anything but and Brexit won’t change this.

For example, 70 per cent of our railways are in foreign hands.

Her Majesty’s Royal train, used less than 20 times each year by the royal family, is run by German rail haulage firm DB Cargo UK, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn, the German State Railways which also runs Arriva Trains in the UK.

Five more of our rail franchises are in the hands of SNCF, France’s State Railway, and the Belgians run Eurostar.

When you ignite the gas or put the lights on, you’re mostly pouring money into the coffers of EDF, France’s state-owned energy company, or Germany’s E-ON.

The latter country is also home to Npower, a subsidiary of German company RWE Group.

If you live in Scotland, Manchester or Wales, your energy’s provided by Iberdrola, a Spanish company.

When you use your mobile phone on the 3 network, the profits go to CK Hutchison Holdings, a Cayman Islands–registered multinational conglomerate headquartered in Hong Kong, while O2 is owned by Telefonica in Spain.

Remember our famous British cars?

Jaguar and Land Rover are now owned by Tata in India and Germany’s BMW make the Mini Cooper.

Never mind. We’re British so we can console ourselves with a British icon, Thornton’s Chocolates.

But no, they’ve been owned by Ferrero Rocher in Italy since 2015.

Forget Cadbury’s, Fry’s and Terry’s, too as they’re all American now and run from Illinois.

The list goes on, as do the relentless takeovers and acquisitions.

GKN, a British firm famous for its work in aerospace, defence and car manufacturing, with 58,000 employees has been taken over by a Melrose.

This is all to do with irresistible greed.

International shareholders, as with the rich in general, can never have enough money.

So on the glorious final Brexit Day, how much of ‘our country’ will we be ‘taking back’?

We have a valuable asset left – the NHS.

However, those shady would-be shareholders are waiting.

NHS Improvement reports that spending on outsourcing elective work to the private sector rose significantly from £241 million in 2015-16 to £381 million in 2016-17.

Unless we wake up, US-style privatisation of health could yet be the sell-off of the century.

So as we wave the flags in 2020, remember ‘our country’, once run by us, is now run by paid private bureaucrats.

But at least, we’ll have ‘taken it back’.