Charlie attended Brentwood School, a class-mate of Griff Rhys Jones whom he accompanied to Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From their he went to work at Her Majesty's Treasury. He gained his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981. In 1990 he was visiting Professor at Stanford University in 1990. From there he became a lecturer at the London School of Economics, becoming a professor in 1990 and head of the Economics Department in 1999.
He has published articles on European unemployment, European Monetary Union, and on macroeconomics generally. He was Managing Editor of the Review of Economic Studies (1986-90). Charlie has also served in a variety of public policy roles, such as consultant to Her Majesty's Treasury and as special adviser to both the Treasury Committee of the House of Commons and to the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. He was a special adviser to the House of Lords enquiry into the European Central Bank.