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Note to world: time to pay up

May 10, 2006

Interesting article in the BBC News Online Magazine today, taking the lead of an East Lothian constituent who inquired if we are still paying off World War II loans.

Apparently in 1945, a US state department survey found that the US public felt that Britain was one of the least trusted allies.This is probably because the US perceived us to be the strongest ally and therefore the most likely to rise up against them, and not about the fact that we owed the US several billion, not to mention we were getting the best discount on goods - ever. I don't know how those attitudes have changed given the most recent coalition, but I suspect that even now trust is still individual and not national: I understand secret information sharing tends to happen in discreet and 'unsanctioned' channels, for example. I don't think it is inherent for nations to truly trust each other.

Also, interestingly - we still owe the US £40 Bn for the war effort during the First World War, a loan which has not yet been forgotten, but at the same time uncollected. It is quite unlikely that this debt will ever be called upon. Similarly, The Crown is owed £104 Bn for loans given to other nations during the same period. That's enough to pay a fifth of the national budget (based on current managed expenditure) or enough to give 30 Million people (estimated tax payers) a rebate of £1,333. If only we knew who we lent it to....

WWII WWI dept nation

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