Blair's anger at Rover break-up

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair today vented his fury at BMW over the way it had broken up Rover.

A Downing Street official telephoned the German company's headquarters in Munich to express the Prime Minister's anger at the way British officials were kept in the dark over the sell-off negotiations.

Ministers were furious that BMW was discussing the sell-off of Rover while they were negotiating with the European Commission in Brussels for an aid package for the company's Longbridge factory.

"That is not the way the Prime Minister believes people should do business," a Downing Street spokesman said.

The spokesman said that the Germans were made fully aware of the Prime Minister's bitterness at the way they had behaved.

"I think the people on the receiving end would be under no illusion about the Prime Minister's anger," the spokesman said.

He said that Mr Blair was particularly angry because at the time that the sale went through the Government was working on the company's behalf to secure an aid package from Brussels.

"At the same time they have clearly been in lengthy and detailed negotiations with a number of companies for a number of weeks," he said.

The spokesman also rejected complaints by BMW that the strength of sterling and uncertainty over Britain's intentions regarding membership of the euro had contributed to its decision.

He said that the Government's policy on the single currency had been set out by Chancellor Gordon Brown in October 1997 and should have been well known to the company.

Regarding the strength of the pound the spokesman said: "The Government is not going to devalue artificially because that route has led in the past to economic failure and boom and bust."