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Parliament and the markets

Reuters story Reporting Brexit: Racing to break news in Britain’s ancient parliament says “Until Brexit, the world’s $5 trillion-a-day foreign exchange markets rarely bothered to take much notice of what happens in Britain’s 800-year-old Westminster assembly.”

This is absolutely not true! I was British lobby correspondent and then political correspondent in the 1970s and early 1980s. At one point, when the markets were jittery, prime minister Margaret Thatcher said a single sentence during question time on the lines of “we must look at interest rates”. I left the press gallery and phoned this through to the then Reuters Economic Service, who put it out immediately. Sterling moved violently against the dollar within minutes. The RES editor came up to the fourth floor World Service newsroom the following day to thank me personally. And historically, I don’t believe the markets were not watching Westminster extremely carefully during August 1939 and onwards, August 1914 and onwards, and many more times: e.g. Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, and of course the original entry into the Common Market. ■