Friday, May 31, 2002

Let’s blame Brussels – for a change

Both Natalie Solent and Patrick Crozier take me to task for being beastly to the Belgians. Blaming Europe for the break up of railtrack is not on, as no-one ordered us to do it that way it was our own stupidity (and perhaps desire to maximise the sale price by aiming different bits at different sectors).

However my standard for blaming the European Union is to ask – if we weren’t in it would we still have done it? If the answer is probably not then I blame Brussels. The standard employed by Mrs Solent and Mr Crozier is obviously a higher one.

As Iain Murray points out, we did split train and track because of the European Union:

91/440 initially only required separated accounting regimes, but it was obvious they weren't going to stop there, and the directive was amended to require separate entities, but not until 1999. It could be argued that we gilded the lilly (or stinkweed), but we were definitely following the spirit, if not the letter, of the directive as it stood in 1992.

Would we have done it differently. We can never tell, but previous privatisation practice shows that although we liked to split up monopolies we never went so obsessively about doing it as with Rail Track.

And about David Beckham’s foot, isn’t it amazing where the malign influence EU gets to these days?


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