Blog: Can Brussels broker a deal?
Dave Leggett | 18 November 2009
I think I said just after GM had decided to hang on to Opel/Vauxhall rather than offload to Magna, that the politics is far from over.
GM's acting head of European ops Nick Reilly is clearly doing the rounds with a begging bowl to see what state aid/loan guarantees are going to be forthcoming from national European governments where there are plants/jobs at stake.
He appears to have pressed the right buttons in the UK, but that was always a case of pushing at an open door given what went before when Magna was in the Opel frame.
Affable Nick, an ex-Vauxhall man, saves the day and gives a slightly desperate British government a small crumb of positive industrial/economic PR. Sounds like he knows how to choose his words very carefully. There's 'a chance' to save more jobs at Vauxhall than under the Magna-led proposal. It's all mights and maybes, the unions and workers no doubt wondering where it could yet all end up.
And no, he says, turning to a broader European audience, we don't want an unseemly beggar-thy-neighbour 'bidding war' with national governments on state aid that could end up upsetting Brussels again. Well, actually maybe we do want that because we're happy for European taxpayers to give us a helping hand and the bigger the better, but we don't want Brussels then stamping all over it on competition grounds.
Hang about, maybe we can get Brussels to act as an honest broker for a collective deal that still gives us pretty much what we want? I'll just carry on fanning the flames for a little while longer by emphasising the importance of state aid and stressing that nothing is yet cast in stone. Let's keep those cheque-books nice and handy.
Yes, as the EU says, economic criteria is very important. But we seem to be very much in the realm of politics and there's still a lot to be decided. Don't be surprised to find that 'affable Nick' was not all that he seemed. Someone somewhere isn't going to like that new Opel/Vauxhall business plan when it finally emerges. Will that plan adhere 100% to business principles or will there be signs of political fudging?
And can Brussels actually broker a deal of some sort next week? Maybe all sides should realise that now is the time for consensus and for GM's European business to be given a chance to be run as a business.
I'm starting to get a small idea of the scale of things here in China, but really, I'm only scratching the surface of this vast country....