The Bank of England has been dragged into the row over UK’s referendum on staying in the EU after its governor was accused of indulging in “speculative” statements backing the “In” campaign.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg accused Mark Carney, the head of the UK’s central bank, of making claims “beneath the dignity of the Bank of England” as he faced questions from the powerful Commons Treasury committee.
Questioning the impartiality of the independent Bank of England is a serious charge, but Carney’s speeches - and Bank reports - warning of the risks of “Brexit” have alarmed those campaigning for “Out”.
Repeated accusations from Rees-Mogg, who is vocal on the need for the UK to forge a fresh future outside the EU, prompted a series of notable reactions from Carney, who resisted the jibes.
The row peaked when Rees-Mogg launched a full-throated attack on Carney’s position, notably his argument EU membership has boosted UK economic “dynamism”.
The Conservative MP said:
“This is what I think is doing your reputation and the reputation of the Bank of England harm. That you are coming out with the standard statements of the pro-EU group.
“That the figure for foreign direct investment in 1970 was that the UK received more than France and Germany combined before we were a member of the European Union. We have consistently received more direct investment.
“That statement you make about the dynamism of the economic could just as well refer to the reforms introduced by Margaret Thatcher.
“It is speculative and beneath the dignity of the Bank of England. To be making speculative pro-EU comments.”
Carney replied: “I’m not going to let that stand.”
Among his arguments was that banks headquartered in London because of the “passporting ability” of being in the EU.
Andrew Tyrie, Tory chairman of the committee, later added Carney was answering questions with the care of a “bomb disposal expert”.
Ahead of his appearance, the Bank sent a letter to the committee outlining why David Cameron secured a successful “deal” with EU leaders.
Throughout the session, the “In” campaign highlighted the positive benefits Carney spelled out of EU membership.
But even Labour MPs on the committee questioned his views.