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Royal Mail snubs EU withdrawal

21 January 2018

Helmsley post office, York, the focus of a prolonged battle to keep the service open. Since 2000 around 40 per cent of post offices in Yorkshire have been shut. Photo Workers.

The Royal Mail has announced that it will not be issuing special stamps to commemorate leaving the European Union. It says that such an issue would damage the Royal Mail’s “strict political neutrality”.

That didn’t stop the Royal Mail from issuing stamps in 1973 commemorating joining the then European Economic Community (the EU’s earlier incarnation). So what has changed between 1973 and the forthcoming exit in 2019?

Most importantly, George Osborne and Vince Cable privatised the Royal Mail between 2013 and 2015, raising over £3.3 billion, allegedly to pay off part of the national debt. The sell-off condemned not just by trade unions but also by the National Audit Office in a scathing report detailing the underselling of this 500-year-old national asset.

The overwhelming number of shares and assets ended up in the hands of City institutions, banks and financiers, priced at 330p a share. The price rose to 455p on the first day of trading – an overnight profit of 38 per cent for the government’s friends in the city.

EU interference

The privatisation of Royal Mail, was not only about putting vast sums of public assets into the troughs of the City financiers, but also about letting the Royal Mail and its EU counterparts compete across Britain and the EU.

Privatisation of postal services in the European Union, driven by EU directives, has been the norm since the mid-1990s, taking place in countries such as Holland, Germany, Belgium, Austria and Sweden. In fact, the last Labour government placed the person responsible for privatising Sweden’s post office on the board of regulator Postcomm – on secondment from the European Union!

The Royal Mail’s political neutrality is anything but. It is about a company with assets of over £9 billion, with a chief executive being paid over £1.5 million, aligning itself with the forces wishing to thwart Britain’s leaving the EU. As part of the drive to independence British workers should demand the removal of foreign flags and symbols – and demand that Britain’s stamps commemorate withdrawal from the EU.