Abstract: British Industry, the EEC, and Barriers to Cross-National European Mergers in the 1960s

Neil Rollings


The rapid expansion of American multinationals into Europe in the 1960s is a well-documented phenomenon, famously called "the American challenge" by Servan-Schreiber. His call for the creation of Eurochampions to face up to this challenge received close attention but ultimately led to few such European transnational companies. This paper addresses the reasons for this lack of response from the perspective of British industry. It illustrates first, that British industry did invest in Western Europe earlier than commonly thought. Second, it shows that a range of barriers hindered further such investment and, in particular, operated against the creation of European transnational companies. The barriers highlighted are exchange control, the lack of company law harmonization, the lack of corporate tax harmonization, and what were often called at the time socio-psychological differences. This last type of barrier often meant that there was no single