I’m amazed that Eurocrats can order a private sector company - albeit partly owned by the taxpayer - to sell a sizeable chunk of its empire.
Why on earth does the European Commission have the right to tell Lloyds TSB to flog 600-odd branches because it’s “too big.”
The Co-op is buying them for £350m, plus a further £400m if a sort of partnership deal is a success.
I’m no defender of banks, which at senior and investment level have behaved without a scintilla of ethical or moral philosophy.
But why should a bank that through its own efforts – and takeover - has built up a large branch network be forced to sell a large slice of its pie. I know it will increase competition and give the Co-op a bigger stake, allowing it a stronger banking position on the high street. It also appears to have sound ethical foundations. That’s a good thing. But a mutually agreed deal without interference from Brussels would have been preferable to an enforced sale.
So why not apply the same principal to Tesco and order the retail behemoth to sell off a fair number of its stores across the country. They are equally dominant in many areas. The same could apply to any successful expanding business.
Tesco would rightly scream foul. So what’s different about banks.
I presume Lloyds TSB has chosen its poorest performing branches to offload, as well as all its Cheltenham andGloucester branches.
Meanwhile, supermarkets are being given another competitive advantage over smaller retailers after the Government allowed them to open virtually all hours – 6am to midnight - for the next eight weeks.
The pretext is growth but the real reason is surely pressure from supermarkets which not only squeeze the livelihood out of milk farmers but also want to drive every other retailer from this land of small shopkeepers.
They already have enough power to do it, and have already used it to kill off small shops in high streets up and down the land. They should not be handed more power and competitive advantage on a Government platter.