Inflation and the United Kingdom

As recently as last week, core inflation (excludes energy and food prices) in both the Eurozone and the United States was easing slightly, whilst in the United Kingdom inflation remained 8.7%, but core inflation increased to 7.1%, the highest since 1992. So why is it when the United States and the Eurozone get a drop off in core inflation, Great Britain suffers an increase?

Without a doubt all Remainers blame Brexit for the inflation problems with the ex-governor of the Bank of England, Canadian Mark Carney, being their standard-bearer. The fall in the pound after Brexit is usually trumpeted as a reason for inflation, but that was seven years ago, and since then, sterling, apart from the odd blip (the Liz Truss regime stands out), has remained relatively steady and in 2023 has gained in strength.

Other reasons from the Remainers camp is trade with Europe is now more expensive and difficult with the end result being costlier imports. The lack of access to labour and skilled workers from Europe is yet another reason put forward by Remainers, but with immigration actually having increased this argument is redundant. However, it cannot be denied that leaving Europe has contributed to the weakness in business investment, but is that a contributing factor to an increase in inflation? Probably not.

The Bank of England has received many derogatory comments regarding the increase in core inflation, and it is argued that their attitude towards inflation was lethargic, and they are therefore responsible for the problems that beset the nation today. Blaming the Bank of England is the easy way out, and they have acted in concert with many other central banks throughout the world. In fact, they were the first to raise interest rates.

Experts suggest that there are a number of influential factors responsible for the increase in core inflation and these can be seen in;

  1. Pay Inflation – The United States is running at 4.3% and the Eurozone is running at 5.2%, whilst in the United Kingdom it is running at 7.2%, helped along by increasing the National Living Wage in 2022 by 6.5% and by 9.7% a year later.
  1. Supply Performance – The United Kingdom is suffering from a poor supply performance, and as opposed to other G7 countries their GDP is still well below pre-Covid-19 levels.
  1. Workforce – There has been a massive fall-off in the workforce, with Covid being the major instigator of this scenario, but Covid was a global shock that has left its mark and can take some responsibility for where the United Kingdom (and many other countries) are today.

The United Kingdom is not alone in fighting inflation, and according to experts, the root cause of the massive increase in global inflation is found in a series of supply shocks, resulting in higher prices and the probability of a wage – price spiral. Central Banks would have to use monetary policy to fight this spiral, with the end result of bringing down inflation and hopefully wages. 

Sadly, the United Kingdom was hit particularly badly as the supply situation was much more severe than many other countries, and this is the real criticism of the Bank of England, as they did not act quick enough to keep the lid on the wage – price spiral.

There is only one monetary supply policy available to the Bank of England, and if increasing interest rates is the only way to fight inflation, the United Kingdom may well fall into recession. It will be painful, but we can only hope the current policy will bring down inflation at a faster rate than is currently predicted.