We have to sell the family silver – we need the cash to pay the bills

The British have traditionally not worried about selling off national assets. The car industry has been carved up between different global manufacturers. So have the airports, the electricity and water companies, and a big chunk of the media. Even our football clubs are mostly owned overseas these days.

If it moves, we’re usually happy to flog it off to any passing Russian oligarch, American conglomerate, or rising Chinese industrialist. Arguments about national champions and industrial strategy we leave to the French.

And yet the possible sale of the drugs giant AstraZeneca has prompted lots of hand-wringing about the scale at [...]

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