Conservative rebels pushing for an in-or-out referendum on Europe are riding the tide of public opinion, according to a Guardian/ICM poll. Some 70% of voters want a vote on Britain’s EU membership, and by a substantial nine-point margin respondents say they would use it to vote for UK withdrawal.
Forty-nine per cent of voters would vote to get Britain out of Europe, as against just 40% who prefer to stay in.
Obviously! Why would the Brits want in on that sinking ship?
In 1990, Britain entered the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) but left two years later after the GBP came under major pressure from speculators (notably George Soros, who earned nearly $2 bn). Britain’s poor financial system was exacerbated by their ERM exit, which earned its day the name “Black Wednesday” in the press. Britain lost billions of GBP and fell into a depression that helped propel the Labour party under Blair.
In 1999, ERM was replaced with ERM II and national membership became part of the convergence criteria to join the Euro currency which debuted shortly after. Today, leaders from Germany and France will attempt to clean up the mess that their solidarity has wrought. (Though, as Ray Dalio noted, no matter what is solved in Europe there will be a de-leveraging.) While the British aren’t doing too great themselves, they at least have the benefit of being further away from the mess than the other European superpowers.
Judging by the predictions for the EU, Black Wednesday may be remembered fondly in British history as an extremely close call. Soros move paved the way for the recovery by allowing the pound to depreciate. Financial disasters are almost uniformly unfortunate, but time has a distinct way of changing how history is written and, thus, how we value our actions. Black Wednesday is my favorite example of how imprecise utility calculations can manifest.