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We need a national interest test for the thorny issue of foreign takeovers

Unilever shares
Credit: Michael Nagle

The recent attempt by Kraft to take over Unilever has raised important questions about the role of government in policing cross-border mergers and takeovers. These questions go right to the heart of what we believe about the market economy and its relationship with government – and indeed to the essential nature of nations and states.

It is widely recognised that, with some well-known exceptions, markets in goods and services are usually best left well alone.  This optimises the allocation of resources and hence maximises output. You could argue that the same logic applies to movements of people and capital, which are, after all, the factors of production. This is the driving belief of all those business leaders who assert, sometimes with a sense of outrage, that post-Brexit restrictions on migration will limit the ability of their companies to perform.

Yet, as long as you recognise the existence...

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