Bank of England governor Mark Carney has been accused of taking a pro-EU stance in the Brexit debate

Of course, if Mr Carney had been taking dictation from Downing Street that would, indeed, be a disgrace. But there’s no evidence of this

Ben Chu
Economics editor
Tuesday 08 March 2016 21:07
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Mark Carney insisted he was reflecting the views of the City, not the Chancellor or Prime Minister
Mark Carney insisted he was reflecting the views of the City, not the Chancellor or Prime Minister

How often do we hear the lament that public officials don’t give straight answers to straight questions? Yet, when they do, they often get told to keep their opinions to themselves.

Mark Carney has been accused of taking a pro-EU stance in the Brexit debate.

“Beneath the dignity of the Bank of England,” spat the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday, after hearing the Governor’s testimony on the economic and financial implications of Britain leaving the EU.

Not really. The Governor was giving a pretty measured set of answers to questions from the Treasury Select Committee. Mr Rees-Mogg, an enthusiastic Brexiter, evidently didn’t like those answers.

But so what? Does that mean we shouldn’t hear Mr Carney’s thoughts? Would we really rather prefer it if the Governor had told MPs: “Well, I could provide answers to your many questions but I prefer to say nothing since anything I do say will be construed as either supportive or negative, and therefore beneath the dignity of the Bank.” Would that really have been in the public interest?

Of course, if Mr Carney had been taking dictation from Downing Street that would, indeed, be a disgrace. But there’s no evidence of this. If we believe the Bank to be independent we should listen to what the institution, and its Governor, has to say.

That does not mean, by the way, that the Bank’s views on this should be taken as some kind of holy writ.

And what of those economic and financial consequences? It was Mr Carney’s predecessor, Lord King, who actually summed it up best at the weekend. Leaving would not usher us into a land of milk and honey. But nor would we be instantly assailed by plagues of locusts.

Project Utopia and Project Fear are both economically silly. If the Bank were able to convey that simple message it would elevate the debate considerably.

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