Finally, it does not matter whether the Chinese let us buy their companies in return. Right now, China’s market is so underdeveloped that there is a very little scope for acquisitions – you would not know what you were buying or whether it was a fair price. And even if they do block us, so what? The economics textbooks tell us, quite correctly, that you benefit from free trade even if the other side doesn’t reciprocate.
In the 1980s, most of Europe was determined to put up barriers to the Japanese giants spreading across the world. In Britain, we welcomed them. We now have one of the most successful car industries in Europe, largely thanks to those investors. We make almost as many cars as France, and are gaining on Germany, with 77pc of those vehicles exported. That is not something you would have predicted in the 1980s.
If we welcome the Chinese, then we can be just as successful across industries such as semiconductors, electronics, clothing, furniture and machine tools, where they are rapidly becoming globally dominant. They will buy our companies, improve them, integrate them into a global operation, and relaunch them upon the world. A few may be put off because we are no longer part of the EU, and may be on our way out of the Single Market as well. But keep in mind that most of the Chinese acquirers are not buying into the EU – but into brands and expertise, and we have plenty of both.
Europe can be protectionist if it wants to. It can put up barriers, shield domestic industries, and complain about whether it is possible for BMW or Bayer to buy up a company listed in Shanghai. Especially after Brexit, our opportunity is to do all the things most of Europe does not want to anymore. That should include welcoming a wave of Chinese takeovers – it will strengthen our economy, and leave the rest of Europe poorer.