I noted this headline in the FT’s emails this morning, and without ever actually reading the related article I have to say I fundamentally disagree with it:
First of all, most drug development takes place with substantial government support. In my opinion it does matter very much who gets that support: we need to know that those who are subsidised are accountable for the benefit that they receive. There is a greater chance of that in the case of a UK-based company.
Second, knowing that the benefits of any such activity will stay in the UK matters. Again, this is much more likely if a company is based in this country.
Thirdly, UK companies are more likely to employ UK staff. I know that the relationship will not be perfect, and that very clearly there are some UK companies that have been more than willing to embrace outsourcing, but I think that the correlation is real, and will certainly be of significance to employees. That matters. People drive innovation. Employees needs have to be considered on this issue.
Lastly, I have to say tax matters. US Companies aren’t too good at paying tax in Europe right now. I want to see a return on the UK’s investment in pharmaceutical companies, and don’t believe that will happen with a US controlled company undertaking research here.
So, very definitely, ownership matters. Only the naive or neoliberals who are indifferent to the interests of the state argue otherwise.
Let’s just take all of that as being true for a moment. So, an American company, Pfizer, applying to become a British company after the merger with AstraZeneca, will put all of Pfizer’s business under the greater control of the UK won’t it?
Absolutely every argument Ritchie uses there, assuming we take them to be true, is an argument in favour of the merger, not against.