POLITICS

Jacob Rees-Mogg Interview: Bank Of England's Mark Carney Should Be Fired Over 'Brexit'

Tory MP on why only West Wing fans care about Obama, Cameron the "boy who cried wolf" and nanny

01/06/2016 11:19 | Updated 01 June 2016
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, should be fired for being "in the pocket" of George Osborne by talking down Britain's prospects outside the European Union, leading 'Brexit' campaigner Jacob Rees-Mogg has told The Huffington Post UK.

Rees-Mogg, a Conservative MP, has clashed twice with the head of the UK’s central bank during parliamentary select committee hearings after Carney warned Leave is the biggest risk to Britain's financial stability

First, the MP argued Carney made statements backing the “In” campaign that were “beneath the dignity of the Bank of England”, and then accused the governor of becoming “politically involved” and championing the same “propaganda” as the Chancellor.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, Rees-Mogg went further in his criticism that the banking chief has abandoned the caution usually demonstrated during general elections, and questioned the Bank's independence from the Government.

He said: “Why were interest rates given to the Bank to do? It was thought politicians move interest rates to suit the electoral cycle.

"If it is thought the Governor is in the pocket of the Chancellor, that he is colluding when it comes to 'Brexit', then why not over interest rates?

"Then this fundamental power of the Bank of England comes into question.

 

HuffPost: Should he resign?

Rees-Mogg: “No, I think he should be fired.”

HuffPost: Fired?

“Yes, yes, yes.

"I think he should be fired for the way he has behaved in office, not given the privilege of resigning. He has so damaged the Bank’s reputation, and therefore his reputation.

"But I am much more concerned about the Bank’s reputation than his.”

In a wide-ranging interview on the in-out EU referendum, the MP compares David Cameron to Dad's Army's Corporal Jack 'Don't Panic' Jones over his apocalyptic 'Brexit' claims, warning the PM voters are either "laughing or they’re irritated they're being bullied", and quips whether Kim Jong Un has yet expressed a view on the vote.

The North Somerset MP goes on that only fans of US TV series West Wing care about Barack Obama's pro-EU intervention, arguing most people are "not very interested" in his view think "it’s an impertinence of him".

Rees-Mogg, 47, an investment banker and son of ex-The Times editor William Rees-Mogg, champions a British immigration system that can block East European labour boosting the living standards of "well-to-do" politicians, but is having the opposite effect for "the poorest in society".

Well-respected, courteous and a keen proponent of the double-breasted suit, Rees-Mogg has earned a reputation as an old-fashioned parliamentarian - distinct from the career-minded politician - since being elected in 2010.

Against the grand backdrop of Parliament's Pugin tea room, Rees-Mogg happily indulges HuffPost's request for the 'Brexit' case in a soundbite.  

“The choice people have on June 23 is: is their country Europe, or is it the United Kingdom," he says between sips of black coffee from pristine white china.

"What follows from that is 'do they want democratic control of their destiny?' or 'do they want it decided by an unelected bureaucracy based in Brussels that has taken on all the essential powers of the state?'”

Rex
A young Jacob Rees-Mogg

The Remain campaign has gone hard on the economic impact of a vote to Leave. It warns of the uncertainty over trade, tariffs and investment, but is certain enough to say each household would be £4,300 worse off.

For Rees-Mogg, however, 'Brexit' is a "great opportunity" for Britain to break free from a "heavily-regulated customs union that puts costs on to business", and prevents British goods and services from thriving in the rest of the world.

“I think the economic benefit is the very straight-forward, classical view: the more freely you trade, the better. The drive to do business is much more powerful for making a country rich than governments directing business, which is more what the EU is about.”

But what does 'Brexit' look like?

The official Vote Leave campaign has resisted the comparison to various models: being like Norway, Switzerland or Canada. Rees-Mogg suggests this misses the point.

“The model model is the wrong model,” he says. “This is a referendum, not a general election campaign. So you don’t have two parties setting out their manifestos, setting out what they would do in the event that they win."

Rees-Mogg says June 24, the day after the referendum would be a "very calm day" if 'Brexit' wins out: "The sun shines, champagne sales increase, the broad sunlit uplands come into view."

In fact, what it looks like might not be fleshed out until we vote again at the 2020 general election. "The choice that will be made for our economic future will be made democratically between competing parties setting out their manifestos about how they would do it.”

Isn't this years of uncertainty?

“There’s uncertainty whatever you do," he insists, arguing Greece is no less on the brink of bankruptcy if Remain prevails, which would have a "deleterious effect" on eurozone trading partners such as the UK. "There’s uncertainty if you Remain, there’s uncertainty if you Leave."

If the economy is Remain's strong suit, then immigration is Leave's joker. Annual net migration of 300,000-plus confirmed last week gives 'Brexit'-ers a hook to hang their fears over jobs, schools and housing.

Critics, however, point to the contradiction of immigration boosting the economic recovery that swept Cameron back to No 10, and continues to prop up Tory forecasts.

"Of course you want an immigration policy that fills skills shortages. But we don’t do that. We have an immigration policy that is a free-for-all. And because the only bit we can control is the non-EU bit, we keep out highly-skilled people from India, China, the United States and so on, and take in any number of low-skilled people from Bulgaria." 

It suggest more non-EU immigration, though Rees-Mogg only supports a total "within a number it can cope with" - but above the 26,000 high-skilled visas the UK issues a year.

He goes further, sticking the boot in (though it's probably a black pair of Oxfords) to what might be termed the Westminster elite: “Widespread immigration of people from Eastern Europe has probably on average made the standard of living of the well-to-do better.  Their plumbers are cheaper, and they come round quicker.

"But it has probably made the standard of living of the poorest in society worse. And politicians, who are broadly in the first category, have responsibility to the people in the second category.”

Getty
The Tory MP with Ukip's Nigel Farage

Isn't Rees-Mogg indulging in the same scaremongering Nigel Farage is accused of, just with more elegance than the Ukip leader's town crier schtick? No, there's a "moral case to be made for fairness", he says.

"Why should we not be willing to make the life of somebody from India better?," he asks. If anything, he says, it's Cameron who is guilty of talking immigrants down.

"I thought the stuff on benefits the Prime Minister negotiated was rubbish. Not because the re-negotiation was poor, but because it de-humanised the people who come here.

"It seems to me that individual immigrants that come here are brave, entrepreneurial people who are willing to take a big risk to leave their friends and their family to come to a country where they don’t speak the language. They’re doing that because they want to do the best for their families."

The In campaign's ‘Project Fear’, a device to scare voters into staying and backing Cameron’s ‘deal’, is mocked mercilessly. “I’m afraid I think people are laughing at the Prime Minister on this. It’s Corporal Jones shouting ‘don’t panic’ as everyone rushes around panicing.”

The suggestion "peace and stability" is at risk is the most laughable claim. Cameron didn't say 'Third World War' but there was little attempt by Downing Street to talk it off the front pages.

“Somebody said to me the Prime Minister is beginning to sound like the boy who cried wolf.  I think there’s a lot in that. Most people know this is silly scaremongering. He did say in his Queens Speech that next week he would be predicting a swarm of locusts. So even he has realised it has become a joke.”

I don’t think the Scots liked being bullied in 2014, and I think the British more broadly don’t like it now. I’m pleased they’re running their fear campaign. Jacob Rees-Mogg

So 'Project Fear' isn't working?

“Do we know Kim Jong Un’s view? Have we been told? Out and about I get two reactions. They’re either laughing or they’re irritated they're being bullied."

He says Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the independence referendum hits the nail on the head: the longer Project Fear went on, the closer the United Kingdom came to collapse.

"I think the campaign in Scotland maxmimised the SNP vote, and if you look at the polls for January through to December they deteriorate quite sharply for the union, and they get more and more aggressive as time goes on.

"I don’t think the Scots liked being bullied in 2014, and I think the British more broadly don’t like it now. I’m pleased they’re running their fear campaign.”

He goes on that the interventions of "these foreign panjandrums" have made matters worse for Remain. He says Obama's warnings were "terrific". "It cheered people up no end in the Leave campaign," he said, before deriding the excitement within the Westminster 'bubble'.

"Most people outside the Palace don't watch West Wing, and they’re not very interested in the view of the American President.  They just think it’s an impertinence of him to tell them how they should vote. We all watch West Wing and think it’s fantastic fun, but that’s a minority taste.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Barack Obama and David Cameron in London

Rees-Mogg was among the first out the traps to criticise Cameron's new 'deal' with the EU, labelling it "thing gruel" in the Commons. Could he have ever backed Remain? “If he had come back with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, you mean?”

Something like that. Rees-Mogg says the EU needed to change immigration policy “symbolically and tangibly", to show the union's ”ratchet doesn't just go one way".

“If it were an international body like the World Trade Organisation, the UN, yes. But not one that overrides our democracy. So, yes, under the right circumstances. But the Prime Minister didn’t even ask for it, having indicated that he might.”

He doesn't think Cameron should walk the plank if Remain triumphs. He is “very friendly with heads of state” and could play an “ambassadorial role”.

“The Tory Party gets in tremendous trouble when its starts changing its leader like it changes its socks. Getting rid of Margaret Thatcher left us damaged for years. I don’t think it would help us to force a change.” 

Mike Lawn/REX/Shutterstock
Rees-Mogg with his son, Peter

What about the Rees-Mogg household? More united?

When campaigning to be an MP in a working-class area of Scotland, he famously took his family nanny of 50 years with him. Her views on Brexit are apparently sound, and has done her bit for the cause

“No schism in the Rees-Mogg household. She was auctioned, to do a tea with nanny, for Vote Leave. So she’s supporting Vote Leave. As is my wife, my five children - well, I can’t be sure about the three month old.”

While pro-EU but similarly single-minded Tory MP Nicholas Soames has joined Twitter, Rees-Mogg is resisting temptation.  “There’s a chap who does it, who is brilliant and very funny. I'm happy to leave him to it. I think I'll let my imposter carry on.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg
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