Abolish the Bank of England! Centralised bank ‘not necessary’, explosive report argues | Politics | News

December 15, 2023
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The , the cornerstone of Britain’s financial sector, is “not necessary” and should be abolished, a radical new report has argued. The Experience of Free Banking was published by the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) on the day the BoE announced its decision to freeze interest rates at 5.25 percent as part of a strategy to control price rises.

The analysis outlines a monetary system where private banks issue competing banknotes, usually anchored to a commodity like gold or silver, replacing the central bank’s role. Kevin Dowd, Professor of Finance and Economics at Durham University Business School, told Express.co.uk: “The book shows that a central bank is not necessary.

“Commercial banks can issue their own currency, their own banknotes and deposits. These could be linked to a proper monetary standard like gold or silver, and were for very long periods under historical free banking.”

The first task, Mr Dowd said, was to set the exchange rate. He explained: “In Argentina, they are announcing a one-off devaluation (to cushion the macroeconomic shock) and then they will replace the peso with US dollars.

“Here, we might devalue against the dollar and thereafter permanently fix the pound-dollar exchange rate. Or we might adopt a gold standard where the pound price of gold is fixed.

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“Either way, we would get rid of monetary policy forever. The monetary policy side of the BoE – the MPC, setting interest rates, etc – would then be redundant, and could be wound down and then scrapped.”

Nevertheless, it would still be necessary to address the BoE’s role as “prudential regulator of banks, insurance companies etc”, Mr Dowd stressed. He continued: “I would phase this out by first announcing that the UK will withdraw from the big international agreements such as Basel by some future date, eg in two or three years’ time.

“It would then announce that UK financial institutions have to get their capital standards up to required levels by that date or they will lose their operating licenses. This would ensure that banks would be capital-adequate when that date arrives, and thereafter bank prudential regulation and what is left of the BoE could all be abolished.”

Mr Dowd said: “All of this would be seriously disruptive, of course, because we would be moving from a system that is managed (or rather, mismanaged) by armies of useless regulators to a system that is much more automatic and self-regulating. Getting rid of these roles is to me a further benefit of moving to free banking. The City would have to reorientate itself but the potential longer-term opportunities would be enormous.”

The Bank today held interest rates at their current level – which is a 15-year-high – for the third time in a row and indicated that cuts are unlikely in the coming months.

Governor Andrew Bailey emphasised that there is “still some way to go” in policymakers’ efforts to get inflation down.

The Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted in favour of keeping the rate steady, with six members of the nine-strong committee were in favour of maintaining, and three calling for a further increase of 0.25 percent.

The interest rate – which helps dictate mortgage rates from banks – had been set at 5.25 percent in previous meetings in September and November, following 14 consecutive increases.

The cost of borrowing was increased in a bid to grapple with soaring inflation, which peaked at 11.1 percent last year, in order to bring it closer to the Bank’s two percent target rate.

Speaking today, Nicholas Hyett, Investment Manager at high-net investment service Wealth Club, commented:

“The markets had hoped that Bank Governor Andrew Bailey would put a festive twist on his ‘sexy turtle’ nickname with a dovish set of minutes accompanying the decision to hold rates flat in December. But there’s no “sexy turtle dove” in the pear tree this Christmas.”

He added: “A minority of MPC members voted to raise rates again, despite a slowdown in economic growth and weakening labour markets, with the minutes flagging geopolitical risks and potential for further wage growth. Government bond yields have ticked up and the UK stock market has slipped as a result.

“There’s logic to holding rates steady at the moment – central banks have a history of folding under the economic pressure and declaring victory on inflation too early. But, as we have said before, leave rate cuts too long and there’s a risk the interest rate cure becomes worse than the inflationary disease.”



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