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United Kingdom

Yearbook 1996

UK. According to, the Conservative government under Prime Minister John Major experienced another year of adversity, both at home and internationally. On February 9, the IRA targeted a severe blow to the Northern Ireland peace process with a bombing operation in east London. The attack, which killed two people's lives and caused extensive material damage, ended the 17-month ceasefire. In June, an IRA bomb destroyed parts of central Manchester. In June and October, attacks were directed against British army bases in Germany and Northern Ireland, respectively. The attempts to initiate multi-party talks on the future of Northern Ireland were also hampered by the fact that the Northern Ireland party Sinn Fein (in effect the political branch of the IRA) and its leader Gerry Adams were not allowed to participate in the talks as there was no longer a ceasefire.

1996 United KingdomThe municipal elections in Scotland and England in May went very poorly for the Tory Party, which also lost a number of parliamentary elections and was forced to rule by a minimal majority for much of the year. In December, his own majority was completely lost, and Prime Minister John Major became dependent on support from the Northern Irish Ulster Unionists.

In their own ranks, a large number of so-called euro skeptics opposed the government's cautious wait-and-see attitude towards the EU's monetary union EMU. Billionaire Sir James Goldsmith formed an anti-EU party, the Referendum Party, which demanded a referendum on EMU and threatened to stand in the upcoming elections.

1996 United Kingdom

The fears that mad cow disease, BSE, which has affected many British cows, may be behind a brain disease in humans led in March to the EU banning the export of British beef. The UK responded by conducting an obstruction policy in various EU forums. Later, they met in Brussels by promising to slaughter a certain part of the stock of cattle.

On March 13, a lone maniac killed 16 schoolchildren and their teachers and then himself in Scottish Dunblane. The massacre prompted an investigation into the use of small arms, and in the autumn came a tightening of legislation.

In August, the divorce between Prince Charles and Princess Diana ended.

The UK economy developed favorably in 1996 with continued GDP growth (2.2%), falling unemployment (7.3%) and relatively low inflation (3%). Exports increased, both to the EU and to non-EU countries, especially the export of cars. The increased real income led to increased demand in both the goods and services sectors. But the economic bright spots were not enough to create the "feel good factor" that the government hoped for. Those already disadvantaged pay a high price in the form of deteriorating public service, continued low wages and poor security.

The Labor Party, which won several important election elections during the year, had acquired a good position ahead of the parliamentary elections to be held by May 1997. However, the young, dynamic party leader Tony Blair had to stand harsh criticism from his own, partly for his authoritarian leadership style and partly for the right-wing policy that many supporters believe has taken place in the New Labor that took shape during Blair's more than two years at the party leader post. At the end of the year, Labor was 20 percentage points ahead of Tory in opinion polls.

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