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Why the British Pound Continues to Sink


Over the centuries, British leaders have often gone to extraordinary lengths to protect the pound’s value, viewing its strength as a sign of the country’s economic power and influence. King Henry I issued a decree in 1125 ordering that those who produced substandard currency “lose their right hand and be castrated.”In the 1960s, the Labour government under Harold Wilson so resisted devaluing the pound — then set at a fixed rate of $2.80, high enough to be holding back the British economy — that he ordered cabinet papers discussing the idea to be burned. In 1967, the government finally cut its value by 14 percent to $2.40.Other economic crises thrashed the pound. In the 1970s, when oil prices skyrocketed and Britain’s inflation rate topped 25 percent, the government was compelled to ask the International Monetary Fund for a $3.9 billion loan. In the mid-1980s, when high U.S. interest rates and a Reagan administration spending spree jacked up the dollar’s value, the pound fell to a then record low.The pound’s d …

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