Plea to protect UK interests in merger

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Former chancellor Alistair Darling heaped further pressure yesterday on the proposed mega-merger between defence giants BAE Systems and EADS as he said Britain should demand to retain a stake in the combined company.

Mr Darling told the Financial Times that Britain’s interests would be damaged if French and German governments, which are current EADS shareholders, sought stakes while the UK did not. He said the logic, to create a new European rival to compete with Boeing in America, was understandable but that all three governments should have share interests. “We will be taken to the cleaners,” he told the FT.

Britain holds a “golden share” in BAE, meaning it can veto deals that are seen to put the public interest at risk, but is not thought to have made any demands for a direct equity holding in the enlarged company.

BAE and EADS are in talks to create the world’s biggest aerospace and defence company with combined sales of £60bn and a market value of around £28bn.

In the UK, they would employ around 52,000 staff.