Abstract Can businessmen expect regional policy in one European country to be like regional policy in other European countries? The answer is yes and no. As a matter of locational incentives, all countries operate similar systems. But when it comes to the objectives of the policies, the preoccupations of governments differ considerably. So do the institutional, political and social constraints under which they have to work. In the second part of this article on long range planning and regional policy, the background to regional policy in France and Italy is examined in comparison with that in Britain. The two continental countries are now experiencing a phase of industrial urbanization similar to that experienced at the end of the nineteenth century. But it is only in superficial ways that history can be said to be repeating itself. Technological possibilities are now on a much grander scale than they were seventy years ago. What is even more striking is that similar social and economic events create quite dissimilar problems in different political traditions. The author is carrying out research into regional policies in the European Communities and the United Kingdom with financial support from the Social Science Research Council.