Brexit, Gold and Harold Wilson's 'Pound in Your Pocket', 50 Years On
- The 2011 Census said that some 83% of residents in England and Wales held a passport (more than nine-in-ten of them British). Compared to 1967, people in the UK are now 11 times more likely to travel abroad according to official data, clocking up 72.7 million trips overseas in the last 12 months. Well over one trip per year per head of the population, that beat the previous record of 2007, just before the Pound slumped by one-third amid the global financial crisis and the Bank of England rate cuts and quantitative easing which followed.
- The UK's dependency on imports of energy has declined from its early 1970s level, then above 50%. But with North Sea production peaking in 1999 we ceased being a net exporter in 2004, and now rely on imports for some 40% of our energy needs. Renewable energy meets a growing share, now around one-tenth, but it was a strong Pound which helped counter the last surge in energy costs. The commodity price boom of the early 2000s coincided with Sterling's strongest and most stable run against the world's other major currencies since before the 1967 devaluation, capping the jump in forecourt prices and utility bills. While this year's 31% rise in crude oil prices in Sterling terms has yet to reach pump prices, higher wholesale costs will "inevitably be passed on to motorists," according to the RAC's Fuel Watch. Its data already show petrol prices rising over 5% and diesel over 7% since the Brexit vote.
- What about the risk of "pass through" from weaker Sterling to the cost of food? Comparing UK food production with consumption, our self-sufficiency has fallen back to the same level of the 1960s, a "disturbing fact" according to the National Farmers Union but one which shows greater efficiency, as the amount of arable land has shrunk by more than 15% over that time. If we didn't export any of what the UK now grows, we could have met 60% of our needs in 2016, down from a peak of 78% in the mid-1980s. In fruit and vegetables, the UK last year imported over £10bn of goods and exported only £1bn. Only in beverages do we show a trade surplus, and only because we export such a lot of Scotch whisky.