European politicians and officials are fond of saying that Britain cannot have a ‘pick and choose’ Brexit.
But if that option was open, then one of few sweeties to be plopped into the paper bag would be the EU‘s competition chief Margrethe Vestager.
The former Danish politician and her anti-trust enforcers dare to tread where no one else will, by taking on Silicon Valley giants.
Alex Brummer says in the latest assault, the EU has levied a record fine of £3.8bn on Google for using its market power to persuade smartphone makers to pre-install its Google search app and Chrome browsers
American politicians make a great deal of noise about untrammelled power, and they embarrassed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg when he donned a suit and delivered his fatuous apologies for allowing Cambridge Analytica to misuse data.
But it is Britain’s Information Commissioner which is proposing a £500,000 fine. And it was the EU which came up with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), seen as a potential template for bringing unscrupulous giants to heel.
In the latest assault, the EU has levied a record fine of £3.8billion on Google for using its market power to persuade smartphone makers to pre-install its Google search app and Chrome browsers.
Most of us would regard these browsers as first choice, but that is largely because we have been bludgeoned into thinking it is the only choice by the priority they are given on devices. Even Apple is paid by Google to carry its search engine.
In the early days it was thought that Google would never take off because it was so dependent on plagiarism for its content. In America’s litigious society, the film-makers, the publishers, the recording companies and everyone else would sue the pants off them destroying their model.
In the end Google fought back and signed peace deals with content providers, becoming one of the world’s richest corporations with a market value of £631bn and cash reserves of £75billion on its books. Google, Apple and the other Silicon Valley giants cannot be that happy about the way things are going.
Alex Brummer says in the world of corporate governance, a vote of 41per cent against the re-election of Premier Foods chief executive Gavin Darby cannot in any circumstances be regarded as a resounding victory
Potentially, like the banks, they could see fines such as that imposed by the EU as a cost of doing business. They might also see it as revenge for American cyber success in much the same way as Brussels despises London’s triumph as a financial centre.
But something more fundamental could be afoot. The Trump administration, with its anti-regulation and ultra-free-market leanings, may be happy to let the sleeping FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) lie. But the US has a long history of distrusting monopolies dating back to the early 20th century.
Even if this president decides it is a fight too far, Congress and future presidential candidates will see FAANGs as an easy target, and could see the robust European approach as a precedent.
The battle of the South Bank in London, which saw Premier Foods fend off rebel investors Oasis Management, is not the end of the affair. A victory is a victory, as Brexit supporters like to remind us. But in the world of corporate governance, a vote of 41per cent against the re-election of chief executive Gavin Darby cannot in any circumstances be regarded as a resounding victory. Any AGM vote where the dissent reaches double figures is a yellow card.
The case against Darby is not that he turned down the McCormick bid in 2016. Once the American company received a glimpse of Premier’s pension fund liabilities, it backed off. The real case is that Darby has been in post since 2013 and has made limited progress in reducing the debt mountain and reshaping pension fund liabilities.
There is still enormous affection for some of Premier’s brands, from Mr Kipling to Batchelors, as evidenced by the scramble for goodies from small investors after the meeting when the tables were swept clean. One suspects that after the recent pummelling, chairman Keith Hamill, having made the case for the defence, will be sweeping Darby away before too long.
Where are all the new jobs being created in Britain? From sunrise online outfits such as Just Eat, which has just announced it is expanding its tech team with 150 new recruits to support the 28,900 eateries it now serves in the UK and the 22.8million customers globally.
It is not surprising that traditional grocers such as Sainsbury’s regard Just Eat and cohorts as worthy competitors.