Black Wednesday

Black Wednesday occurred in the United Kingdom on 16 September 1992, when John Major's Conservative government was forced to withdraw the pound sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) after it was unable to keep the pound above its agreed lower limit in the ERM. In 1997, the UK Treasury estimated the cost of Black Wednesday at £3.4 billion.[1] In 2005, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act indicated that the actual cost may have been slightly less, £3.3 billion.[2] At that time, the United Kingdom held the Presidency of the European Communities.

The trading losses in August and September were estimated at £800 million, but the main loss to taxpayers arose because devaluation could have made them a profit. The Treasury papers[3] show that if the government had maintained $24 billion foreign currency reserves and the pound had fallen by the same amount, the UK would have made a £2.4 billion profit on the pound sterling's devaluation.[4]

Prelude

When the ERM was set up in 1979, the United Kingdom declined to join. This was a controversial decision, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Geoffrey Howe, was staunchly pro-European. His successor, Nigel Lawson, a believer in a fixed exchange rate, admired the low inflationary record of West Germany. He attributed it to the strength of the Deutsche Mark and the management of the Bundesbank. Thus, although the UK had not joined the ERM, from early 1987 to March 1988 the Treasury followed a semi-official policy of 'shadowing' the Deutsche Mark.[5] Matters came to a head in a clash between Lawson and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's economic adviser Alan Walters, when Walters claimed that the Exchange Rate Mechanism was "half baked".

This led to Lawson's resignation as chancellor to be replaced by his old protégé John Major, who, with Douglas Hurd, the then Foreign Secretary, convinced the Cabinet to sign Britain up to the ERM in October 1990, effectively guaranteeing that the British government would follow an economic and monetary policy preventing the exchange rate between the pound and other member currencies from fluctuating by more than 6%. On 8 October 1990, Thatcher entered the pound into the ERM mechanism at DM 2.95 to the pound. Hence, if the exchange rate ever neared the bottom of its permitted range, DM 2.773 (€1.4178 at the DM/Euro conversion rate), the government would be obliged to intervene. With UK inflation at three times the rate of Germany's, interest rates at 15%, it could be argued that the conditions for joining the ERM were not favourable at that time.

From the beginning of the 1990s, high German interest rates, set by the Bundesbank to counteract inflationary effects related to excess expenditure on German reunification, caused significant stress across the whole of the ERM. The UK and Italy had additional difficulties with their double deficits, while the UK was also hurt by the rapid depreciation of the United States Dollar – a currency in which many British exports were priced – that summer. Issues of national prestige and the commitment to a doctrine that the fixing of exchange rates within the ERM was a pathway to a single European currency inhibited the adjustment of exchange rates. In the wake of the rejection of the Maastricht Treaty by the Danish electorate in a referendum in the spring of 1992, and announcement that there would be a referendum in France as well, those ERM currencies that were trading close to the bottom of their ERM bands came under pressure from foreign exchange traders.

In the months leading up to Black Wednesday, George Soros had been building a huge short position in pounds sterling that would become immensely profitable if the pound fell below the lower band of the ERM. Soros recognized the unfavourable position at which the United Kingdom joined the ERM, believing the rate at which the UK was brought into the Exchange Rate Mechanism was too high, their inflation was also much too high (triple the German rate), and British interest rates were hurting their asset prices.[6] Soros made over £1 billion[7] in profit by short selling sterling.

The currency traders act

The UK government attempted to prop up the depreciating pound to avoid withdrawal from the monetary system the country had joined two years earlier. John Major raised interest rates to 10 percent and authorised the spending of billions worth of foreign currency reserves to buy up the sterling being sold on the currency markets, but the measures failed to prevent the pound falling below its minimum level in the ERM. The Treasury took the decision to defend the sterling's position, believing that to devalue would be to promote inflation.[8]

Soros' Quantum Fund began a massive sell-off of pounds on Tuesday, 15 September 1992. The Exchange Rate Mechanism stated that the Bank of England was required to accept any offers to sell pounds. However, the Bank of England only accepted orders during the trading day. When the markets opened in London the next morning, the Bank of England began their attempt to prop up their currency as per the decision made by Norman Lamont and Robin Leigh-Pemberton, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and Governor of the Bank of England respectively. They began buying orders to the amount of 300 million pounds twice before 8:30 AM to little effect.[9] The Bank of England's intervention was ineffective because Soros' Quantum Fund was dumping pounds far faster. The Bank of England continued to buy and Quantum continued to sell until Lamont told Prime Minister John Major that their pound purchasing was failing to produce results.

At 10:30 AM on 16 September, the British government announced a rise in the base interest rate from an already high 10 to 12 percent to tempt speculators to buy pounds. Despite this and a promise later the same day to raise base rates again to 15 percent, dealers kept selling pounds, convinced that the government would not stick with its promise. By 7:00 that evening, Norman Lamont, then Chancellor, announced Britain would leave the ERM and rates would remain at the new level of 12 percent; however, on the next day the interest rate was back on 10%.

It was later revealed that the decision to withdraw had been agreed at an emergency meeting during the day between Norman Lamont, Prime Minister John Major, Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, President of the Board of Trade Michael Heseltine, and Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke (the latter three all being staunch pro-Europeans as well as senior Cabinet Ministers), and that the interest rate hike to 15% had only been a temporary measure to prevent a rout in the pound that afternoon.

Aftermath

Other ERM countries such as Italy, whose currencies had breached their bands during the day, returned to the system with broadened bands or with adjusted central parities. Even in this relaxed form, ERM-I proved vulnerable, and ten months later the rules were relaxed further to the point of imposing very little constraint on the domestic monetary policies of member states.

The effect of the high German interest rates, and high British interest rates, had arguably put Britain into recession as large numbers of businesses failed and the housing market crashed. Some commentators, following Norman Tebbit, took to referring to ERM as an "Eternal Recession Mechanism"[10] after the UK fell into recession during the early 1990s. While many people in the UK recall Black Wednesday as a national disaster that permanently affected the country's international prestige, some in the Conservative Party claim that the forced ejection from the ERM was a "Golden Wednesday"[11] or "White Wednesday",[12] the day that paved the way for an economic revival, with the Conservatives handing Tony Blair's New Labour a much stronger economy in 1997 than had existed in 1992[12] as the new economic policy swiftly devised in the aftermath of Black Wednesday led to re-establishment of economic growth with falling unemployment and inflation.[13] Monetary policy switched to inflation targeting.[14][15]

The Conservative Party government's image had been damaged to the extent that the electorate was more inclined to support the opposition of the time – that the economic recovery ought to be credited to external factors, as opposed to government policies implemented by the Conservatives. The Conservatives had recently won the 1992 general election, and the Gallup poll for September showed a small lead of 2.5% for the Conservative Party. By the October poll, following Black Wednesday, their share of the intended vote in the poll had plunged from 43% to 29%.[16] The debacle would ultimately tarnish the Tories' reputation (leading to three consecutive defeats in following national elections, all by large margins) until the late 2000s, when under David Cameron's leadership, the Conservatives surpassed Gordon Brown's Labour government in party image for the first time since September 1992 (partly because of the effects of the Great Recession), eventually gaining the most seats in the 2010 general election.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Dury, Hélène. "Black_Wednesday" (PDF). Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  2. ^ Tempest, Matthew (9 February 2005). "Treasury papers reveal cost of Black Wednesday". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  3. ^ "Guide to the papers and full list of documents". HM Treasury. Archived from the original on 3 April 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  4. ^ Freeman, Harold. "The Cost of Black Wednesday Reconsidered" (PDF). HM Treasury. p. 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 April 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  5. ^ "Not while I'm alive, he ain't – Part 4 Thatcher and Lawson". The Westminster Hour. BBC Radio 4. 15 May 2003.
  6. ^ Sebastian Mallaby (10 June 2010). More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite. Penguin Press HC. ISBN 9781594202551.
  7. ^ Litterick, David (13 September 2002). "Billionaire who broke the Bank of England". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  8. ^ Bootle, Roger (28 April 2008). "Pound fall is UK's get-out-of-jail-free card". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK.
  9. ^ Litterick, David (13 September 2002). "Billionaire who broke the Bank of England". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  10. ^ Tebbit, Norman (10 February 2005). "An electoral curse yet to be lifted". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 30 December 2008.
  11. ^ "A strong-arm policy is needed to hold the pound down on the rebound". Roger Bootle. London, UK: The Telegraph. 15 May 2009.
  12. ^ a b Kaletsky, Anatole (9 June 2005). "The reason that Europe is having a breakdown...it's the Euro, stupid". The Times. UK. Retrieved 30 December 2008.(subscription required)
  13. ^ [1] Archived 16 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Inflation Targeting Has Been A Successful Monetary Policy Strategy". NBER. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  15. ^ "Targeting Inflation: The United Kingdom in Retrospect" (PDF). IMF. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  16. ^ "Gallup spreadsheet". Archived from the original on 13 October 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2014.

External links

1967 Chicago White Sox season

The 1967 Chicago White Sox season was the team's 67th season in the major leagues, and its 68th season overall. They finished with a record 89–73, good enough for fourth place in the American League, 3 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox.

1992 in the United Kingdom

Events from the year 1992 in the United Kingdom. This year was the 40th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II.

This year is notable for a fourth-term general election victory for the Conservative Party; "Black Wednesday" (16 September), the suspension of the UK's membership of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism; and an annus horribilis for the Royal Family.

1997 United Kingdom general election

The 1997 United Kingdom general election was held on Thursday 1 May 1997, five years after the previous general election on 9 April 1992, to elect 659 members to the British House of Commons. Under the leadership of Tony Blair, the Labour Party ended its eighteen-year spell in opposition and won the general election with a landslide victory, winning 418 seats, the most seats the party has ever held to date, and the highest proportion of seats held by any party in the post-war era. For the first time since 1931, the outgoing government lost more than half its parliamentary seats in an election.

The election saw a 10.0% swing from Conservative to Labour on a national turnout of 71%, and would be the last national vote where turnout exceeded 70% until the 2016 EU referendum nineteen years later. As a result Blair became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a position he held until his resignation on 27 June 2007.

Under Blair's leadership, the Labour Party had adopted a more centrist policy platform under the name 'New Labour'. This was seen as moving away from the traditionally more left-wing stance of the Labour Party. Labour made several campaign pledges such as the creation of a National Minimum Wage, devolution referendums for Scotland and Wales and promised greater economic competence than the Conservatives, who were unpopular following the events of Black Wednesday in 1992; from then until 1997, the party consistently trailed behind Labour in the opinion polls.

The Labour Party campaign was ultimately a success; the party returned an unprecedented 418 MPs, and began the first of three consecutive terms for Labour in government. However, 1997 was the last general election in which Labour had a net gain of seats until the snap 2017 general election 20 years later. A record number of women were elected to parliament, 120, of whom 101 were Labour MPs. This was in part thanks to Labour's policy of using all-women shortlists.

The Conservative Party was led by incumbent Prime Minister John Major and ran their campaign emphasising falling unemployment and a strong economic recovery following the early 1990s recession. However, a series of scandals, party division over the European Union, the events of Black Wednesday and a desire of the electorate for change after 18 years of Conservative rule all contributed to the Conservatives' worst defeat since 1906, with only 165 MPs elected to Westminster, as well as their lowest share of the vote since 1832.

The party was left with no seats whatsoever in Scotland or Wales, and many key Conservative politicians, including Defence Secretary Michael Portillo, Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, Trade Secretary Ian Lang, Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth and former ministers Edwina Currie, Norman Lamont, David Mellor and Neil Hamilton lost their parliamentary seats.

However, future Prime Minister Theresa May was elected to the safe Conservative seat of Maidenhead, and current Speaker John Bercow at Buckingham. Following the defeat, the Conservatives began their longest continuous spell in opposition in the history of the present day (post–Tamworth Manifesto) Conservative Party, and indeed the longest such spell for any incarnation of the Tories/Conservatives since the 1760s, lasting 13 years, including the whole of the 2000s. Throughout this period, their representation in the Commons remained consistently below 200 MPs.

The Liberal Democrats, under Paddy Ashdown, returned 46 MPs to parliament, the most for any third party since 1929 and more than double the number of seats it got in 1992, despite a drop in popular vote, in part due to tactical voting by anti-Conservative voters supporting it in lieu of Labour in areas where that party had little strength. The Scottish National Party (SNP) returned six MPs, double its total in 1992.

As with all general elections since the early 1950s, the results were broadcast live on the BBC; the presenters were David Dimbleby, Peter Snow and Jeremy Paxman.

Black Wednesday (air travel)

September 15, 1954, known as Black Wednesday, was a particularly good example of air traffic control's inability to handle increases in traffic levels. It was initiated by inclement weather approaching New York City. Air traffic controllers were confronted with a record number of pilots filing instrument flight plans causing severe traffic congestion and substantial delays amongst 45,000 airline passengers and private aircraft all along the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Black Wednesday (disambiguation)

Black Wednesday was a British financial crisis on 16 September 1992.

Black Wednesday may also refer to:

Other one-time events:

Black Wednesday 1878, a political crisis in Victoria, Australia

Black Wednesday (air travel), a 1954 crisis in air-traffic control

Black Wednesday (comic), a 1959 Disney comic by Carl Barks

Black Wednesday, a day of despair in the 1967 Chicago White Sox season

Black Wednesday, a day in 1981 when Michael Scott fired forty employees at Apple Computer

Black Wednesday, Wednesday 26th March 1986, the day when Swindon Works closed after 143 years of operation.

Black Wednesday, a day of mass sexual assault in Egypt in 2005

The first Wednesday of the 2013 Wimbledon Championships

Black Wednesday in United Kingdom health care, first Wednesday in August, parallel to U.S. "July effect"

Black Wednesday 1878

Black Wednesday was a political crisis in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on Wednesday 9 January 1878 when the Victorian Government, headed by the radical premier Graham Berry, dismissed around 300 public servants, including department heads, judges and senior officials, after the Legislative Council had failed to pass a government supply bill on the grounds that it included an expenditure item to extend the payment of members of parliament. Further sackings on 24 January brought the total number of people dismissed to nearly 400.

Black Wednesday was a high point in the broader struggle between the Berry ministry and the Legislative Council that gripped Victoria between 1877 and 1881. The dismissals were officially justified by the ministry on the grounds of financial exigency, but another motivation was the government's desire to penalise those in the public service who backed the intransigence of the Council. A compromise was eventually reached, and the extension of payments to members was passed by the Council in April 1879, as a separate piece of legislation. Most of those who had been dismissed were subsequently reinstated.

Blackout Wednesday

Blackout Wednesday (also known as Black Wednesday, Drinksgiving, Thanksgiving Eve, Wacky Wednesday, Whiskey Wednesday, or Awkward Wednesday, or Big Wednesday) is a pejorative term for the night before the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. It is associated with binge drinking since very few people work on Thanksgiving, and most university students are home to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with their families. The name refers to "blacking out", memory loss due to excessive alcohol intoxication. In the south Chicago suburbs in particular, Blackout Wednesday is sometimes a more popular partying night than even New Year's Eve or Saint Patrick's Day. In some cities, it is the top drunk driving night of the year. Police departments increase patrols checking for drunk driving in many jurisdictions including in Indiana and Minnesota. MADD reports that the Thanksgiving holiday produces more people killed in drunk driving crashes than the Christmas holiday.The term has a search history on Google beginning in 2014.

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ECOFIN often works with the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs and the President of the European Central Bank.

European Exchange Rate Mechanism

The European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) was a system introduced by the European Economic Community on 13 March 1979, as part of the European Monetary System (EMS), to reduce exchange rate variability and achieve monetary stability in Europe, in preparation for Economic and Monetary Union and the introduction of a single currency, the euro, which took place on 1 January 1999.

After the adoption of the euro, policy changed to linking currencies of EU countries outside the eurozone to the euro (having the common currency as a central point). The goal was to improve the stability of those currencies, as well as to gain an evaluation mechanism for potential eurozone members. This mechanism is known as ERM II and has superseded ERM. Currently there is just one currency in the ERM II, the Danish krone.

History of European Union–United Kingdom relations

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John Major

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Born in St Helier, Surrey, Major grew up in Brixton. He initially worked as an insurance clerk, and then at the London Electricity Board, before becoming an executive at Standard Chartered. He was first elected to the House of Commons at the 1979 general election as the Member of Parliament for Huntingdon. He served as a Parliamentary Private Secretary, Assistant Whip and as a Minister for Social Security. In 1987, he joined the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and was promoted to Foreign Secretary two years later. Just three months later in October 1989, he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, where he presented the 1990 budget.

Major became Prime Minister after Thatcher's reluctant resignation in November 1990. He presided over British participation in the Gulf War in March 1991, and negotiated the Maastricht Treaty in December 1991. He went on to lead the Conservatives to a record fourth consecutive electoral victory, winning the most votes in British electoral history with over 14,000,000 votes at the 1992 general election, albeit with a reduced majority in the House of Commons. Shortly after this, even though a staunch supporter of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), his government became responsible for British exit from the ERM after Black Wednesday on 16 September 1992. This event led to a loss of confidence in Conservative economic policies and Major was never able to achieve a lead in opinion polls again.

Despite the eventual revival of economic growth amongst other successes such as the beginnings of the Northern Ireland peace process, by the mid-1990s, the Conservative Party was embroiled in scandals involving various MPs (including cabinet ministers). Criticism of Major's leadership reached such a pitch that he chose to resign as party leader in June 1995, challenging his critics to either back him or challenge him; he was duly challenged by John Redwood but was easily re-elected. By this time, the Labour Party had abandoned its socialist ideology and moved to the centre under the leadership of Tony Blair and won a large number of by-elections, eventually depriving Major's government of a parliamentary majority in December 1996. Major went on to lose the 1997 general election five months later, in one of the largest electoral defeats since the Great Reform Act of 1832.

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The Labour Party was founded in 1900, having grown out of the trade union movement and socialist parties of the nineteenth century. It overtook the Liberal Party to become the main opposition to the Conservative Party in the early 1920s, forming two minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in the 1920s and early 1930s. Labour served in the wartime coalition of 1940–1945, after which Clement Attlee's Labour government established the National Health Service and expanded the welfare state from 1945 to 1951. Under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, Labour again governed from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1979. In the 1990s, Tony Blair took Labour closer to the centre as part of his "New Labour" project, which governed the UK under Blair and then Gordon Brown from 1997 to 2010. Since Jeremy Corbyn took over the leadership in 2015, the party has moved leftward.

Labour is currently the Official Opposition in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, having won the second-largest number of seats in the 2017 general election. The Labour Party is currently the largest party in the Welsh Assembly, forming the main party in the current Welsh government. The party is the third largest in the Scottish Parliament.

Labour is a member of the Party of European Socialists and Progressive Alliance, holds observer status in the Socialist International, and sits with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. The party includes semi-autonomous Scottish and Welsh branches and supports the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland. As of 2017, Labour had the largest membership of any party in Western Europe.

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Ni una menos

Ni una menos (Spanish: [ni ˈuna ˈmenos]; Spanish for "Not one [woman] less") is an Argentine fourth-wave grassroots feminist movement, which has spread across several Latin American countries, that campaigns against gender-based violence. In its official website, Ni una menos defines itself as a "collective scream against machista violence." The campaign was started by a collective of Argentine female artists, journalists and academics, and has grown into "a continental alliance of feminist forces". The movement regularly holds protests against femicides, but has also touched on topics such as gender roles, sexual harassment, gender pay gap, sexual objectification, legality of abortion, sex workers' rights and transgender rights.

The movement became nationally recognized with the use of the hashtag #NiUnaMenos on social media, title under which massive demonstrations were held on June 3, 2015, having the Palace of the Argentine National Congress as a main meeting point. The protest was organized after the murder of 14-year-old Chiara Paez, found buried underneath her boyfriend's house on May 11, beaten to death and a few weeks pregnant. A viral phenomenon which extended to countries such as Uruguay and Chile, it managed to congregate around 200,000 people in Buenos Aires alone. On June 3, 2016 the multitudinous demonstration took place once again throughout Argentina's most important cities, under the new slogan #VivasNosQueremos (English: #WeWantUsAlive); the march was also replicated in Montevideo, Uruguay and Santiago, Chile. A #NiUnaMenos march also took place in Lima, Peru on August 13, 2016, with thousands of people gathering in front of the Palace of Justice. Newspaper La República considered it the largest demonstration in Peruvian history.On October 19, 2016 the Ni una menos collective organized a first-ever women mass strike, in response to the murder of 16-year-old Lucía Pérez, who was raped and impaled in the coastal city of Mar del Plata. It consisted of a one-hour pause from work and study early in the afternoon, with protesters dressed in mourning for what was known as Miércoles negro (Spanish for "Black Wednesday"). These protests became region-wide and gave the movement a greater international momentum, with street demonstrations also taking place in Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Spain. A week later, a protest also took place in Rio de Janeiro,

Brazil, which has been considered "yet another clear sign that Ni una menos has become a rallying cry for the region." On March 8, 2017, Ni una menos took part of the International Women's Strike. The strike was spearheaded in the United States by the leaders of the Women's March on Washington, who in a call to arms letter in The Guardian pointed to Ni una menos as an inspiration.In 2016, Argentine scientists Julián Petrulevicius and Pedro Gutiérrez named Tupacsala niunamenos, a dragonfly species found in La Rioja, after the movement. The genus Tupacsala was chosen in honor of Túpac Amaru II and Milagro Sala's organization named after him.

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Quantum Group of Funds

The Quantum Group of Funds are privately owned hedge funds based in London, New York, Curaçao (Kingdom of the Netherlands) and Cayman Islands. They are advised by George Soros through his company Soros Fund Management. Soros started the fund in 1973 in partnership with Jim Rogers. Wealthy Europeans put $6 million into the funds in 1969.In 1992, the lead fund, Soros' Quantum Fund, became famous for 'breaking' the Bank of England, forcing it to devalue the pound. Soros had bet his entire fund in a short sale on the ultimately fulfilled prediction that the British currency would drop in value, a coup that netted him a profit of $1 billion, also known as Black Wednesday. In 1997, Soros was blamed for forcing sharp devaluations in Southeast Asian currencies.In July 2011, to avoid having to register with the SEC and comply with reporting requirements under the Dodd-Frank reform act, the Quantum Fund announced they would be turning the fund into a family investment group and returning all outside money to investors by the end of 2011. The fund is now managing Soros' family money as well as working with retail investors.

Sammarinese lira

The lira (plural lire) was the currency of San Marino from the 1860s until it was replaced by the Italian Lira in September 17, 2002. It was equivalent and pegged to the Italian lira. Italian coins and banknotes and Vatican City coins were legal tender in San Marino, while Sammarinese coins, minted in Rome, were legal tender throughout Italy, as well as in the Vatican City.

Vatican lira

The lira (plural lire) was the currency of the Vatican City between 1929 and 2002.

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