Britain Goes to the Ballot Box

The U.K. has a long history of world-changing inventions, including the marine chronometer, the reflecting telescope, the steam engine, cement and—my favorites of all—cricket and football.

Britain’s world-leading days are long in the past. Years of turmoil have left the once-innovative nation directionless and struggling to keep up with the rest of the world. That is the backdrop as U.K. voters go to the polls on July 4.

The health of the British economy will be top of mind for voters. The U.K. has struggled to establish momentum since the pandemic ended; real output has lagged behind that seen in other large developed countries. The economy sank into a technical recession in the second half of 2023. Though a recovery is taking shape, the outlook is not particularly bright for the next few quarters.

real gdp

Some of Britain’s problems are familiar: all advanced nations are reckoning with aging populations and climate risk, and all European states were set back by the energy crisis stemming from the Ukraine war. But the U.K. has been further impaired by Brexit. Departure from the European Union (EU) has been costly: goods trade has fallen sharply in the last five years, as predicted by those who opposed the move.

The U.K.’s stock market has fallen out of favor because of the lackluster economy it represents. Though London remains an important financial center, it is no longer home to Europe’s biggest bourse. Britain’s share of global market capitalization has fallen from 8% to 3% in the past two decades. The pound has lost 14% of its value since the Brexit vote in June 2016.