Mark Carney was accused of jeopardizing the Bank of Englandâ€™s credibility in the European Union debate as he faced a fiery line of questioning from U.K. Âlegislators.
While the BOE governor has spent months trying to avoid the political battle â€” a task lawmaker Andrew Tyrie compared to bomb disposal â€” some members of the Treasury Committee said BOE statements including an October report and a letter published on Tuesday supported the governmentâ€™s bid to keep Britain in the bloc. They questioned whether the central bank had overstated the
â€œThe language weâ€™ve used in the report, the language we use in the letter, is careful,â€ Carney told the cross-party panel on Tuesday. â€œTo state the obvious, economic questions are important questions in terms of the broader decision the people of the U.K. have to make.â€
Tensions are running high, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and BlackRock Inc. among those warning the June 23 vote puts trade and investment at risk and economists saying the full implications of an exit are almost impossible to quantify. Carney testified alongside Deputy Governor for Financial Stability Jon Cunliffe, who told lawmakers Prime Minister David Cameronâ€™s deal to reform the relationship with the EU was â€œvery significant and very material.â€
The opening of the hearing on the economic and financial costs and benefits of EU membership was dominated by a testy exchange with pro-â€Brexitâ€ Jacob Rees-Mogg of the ruling Conservative Party.
â€œYou are coming out with the standard pro-European Union groupâ€ lines, Rees-Mogg told the governor. â€œIt is beneath the dignity of the BOE to be making speculative pro-EU statements.â€
â€œIâ€™m not going to let that stand,â€ Carney said. He defended the BOEâ€™s independent stance by saying economic issues are not the only consideration and the central bank will not make any recommendation on the topic.
In the October publication, the BOE considered the impact of the EU on its mandate, but didnâ€™t give a full analysis of the merits or the implications of an exit. While Carney again stopped short of providing a detailed assessment on Tuesday, he said that â€œwithout questionâ€ some activity would probably relocate, and that major institutions are developing contingency plans.
Lawmaker John Mann, from the Labour opposition, asked if the BOEâ€™s report was too focused on the virtues of membership, a suggestion the governor rejected.
â€œWe do not take openness as an unalloyed good,â€ Carney said. While openness contributes to dynamism, trade, and foreign direct investment, it also makes the economy â€œmore exposed to shocks.â€
The central bank said on Monday it will make extra liquidity available to banks in the run-up to the referendum. Three additional indexed long-term repo operations will take place in the weeks around the poll.
Carney gave a little more insight into the BOEâ€™s contingency planning, saying a vote to leave would create forces on inflation in both directions and that the central bank would be able to maintain price stability whatever the outcome.
â€œThere could be lower levels of activity because of the degree of uncertainty that could affect investment and household spending,â€ he said. â€œOn the converse, there could be movements in the exchange rate which would push up on inflation through normal exchange-rate pass-through, and the bank would have to take an assessment of those forces and their likely persistence in terms of managing monetary policy to achieve the inflation target.â€
In the letter to the Treasury Committee, which Carney said reflected his own views, the governor said U.K. officials need to be able to manage national financial stability.
The need for national regulators â€œhas been respected in the past,â€ hewrote. Itâ€™s important that BOE retains the â€œflexibility and overall supervisory coherence necessary to meet its financial stability objectives.â€