2 November 2017

How Brexit has made Britain the new sick man of Europe


In the 1970s, Britain was often more pitied than envied or admired, its economy characterised by little or no growth, high inflation and rising unemployment. This was the era of “stagflation”.

Weary of being outpaced by its continental competitors, the UK belatedly joined the European Economic Community in 1973. In 1976, the plummeting value of the pound forced Jim Callaghan’s Labour government to humiliatingly accept a £2.3bn bailout from the International Monetary Fund, the largest in its three-decade history. Britain became known as “the sick man of Europe” – a label first applied by Russia’s Tsar Nicholas I to the Ottoman empire in 1853. “Britain is a tragedy,” observed the then US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, in 1975. “It has sunk to begging, borrowing and stealing until North Sea oil comes in.”

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