Does taking back control mean transferring authority from Westminster to Washington? It must do because Boris Johnson won’t say otherwise as sovereignty over unique British microprocessor know-how slips into US hands
The collision of political rhetoric and commercial reality in Cambridge’s “Silicon Fen” threatens to expose the government’s industrial strategy for what it is: draping a union jack over the wilder edges of global capitalism. Earlier this summer, Boris Johnson sought new powers to block outsiders from picking up British firms, especially hi-tech ones. Weeks later, it emerged that the jewel in the crown of UK computing may depart from these shores. Ministers said nothing.
That may be because the ownership of the company in question – the world’s most important chip-design firm Arm – was previously decided by Brexit politics. Just after the 2016 vote, Theresa May, having vowed to defend UK firms from foreign takeovers, blessed Arm’s sale to SoftBank, a Japanese conglomerate, for £24bn. That move came with conditions to double the workforce and keep Arm’s headquarters in Cambridge for five years – a pledge that expires next July. SoftBank is now in talks to sell Arm to Nvidia, the world’s most valuable chip company.