EU referendum: Conservative chancellors and leaders attack Bank of England and George Osborne for dishonesty

Jake Cordell
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George Osborne and Mark Carney have been accused of peddling phoney forecasts and scare stories by the Leave campaign
George Osborne and Mark Carney have been accused of peddling phoney forecasts and scare stories by the Leave campaign (Source: Getty)

Four Conservative grandees, including two former chancellors and a pair of ex-leaders, have accused the Bank of England of "peddling phoney forecasts and scare stories", as they lashed out at George Osborne's plans for an emergency Brexit budget.

Writing in The Telegraph this morning, the group - chancellors Norman Lamont and Nigel Lawson, and former leaders Iain Duncan-Smith and Michael Howard - accused Threadneedle Street, the Treasury, "and other official sources" of "starting dishonesty ... to frighten the electorate into voting Remain".

The letter came as Mark Carney issued a hard-hitting response to calls from Leave campaigner Bernard Jenkin to stay out of the EU referendum campaign. Remain campaigners said the Leave camp had "taken the desperate and extraordinary move of attacking the Bank of England" and were trying to "muzzle independent opinion".

The stinging intervention came mere hours after more than 60 sitting Conservative MPs lent their names to a letter threatening to vote against their own government should Osborne attempt to cut spending or raise taxes in an emergency post-Brexit budget.

Read more: Brexit is a huge opportunity for Britain's world-beating financial services industry

Osborne was accused of being irresponsible to propose such an idea, which the group branded "nothing more than ludicrous scare mongering".

"There has been startling dishonesty in the economic debate, with a woeful failure on the part of the Bank of England, the Treasury, and other official sources to present a fair and balanced analysis," the quartet wrote.

"They have been peddling phoney forecasts and scare stories to back up the attempts of David Cameron and George Osborne to frighten the electorate into voting Remain.

"Yesterday saw the threat of an emergency Budget - which was nothing more than ludicrous scare mongering born of desperation. No responsible chancellor would seriously propose any such thing."

Who to trust?

Group Trust (Remain supporters) Trust (Leave supporters) Net trust (Remain supporters) Net trust (Leave supporters) Trust gap between Remain and Leave supporters
Academics 68 per cent 26 per cent + 49 - 28 77
Economists 63 per cent 21 per cent + 41 - 36 77
The Bank of England 61 per cent 19 per cent + 34 - 45 79
Think tanks (e.g. IFS) 48 per cent 13 per cent + 18 - 49 67
Actors and entertainers 15 per cent 10 per cent - 48 - 54 6
International organisations (e.g. UN and IMF) 62 per cent 10 per cent + 40 - 58 98
Journalists 11 per cent 11 per cent - 65 - 65 0
British politicians 22 per cent 8 per cent - 45 - 73 28
Leaders of other countries 33 per cent 2 per cent - 17 - 83 100

YouGov polling suggests there are big differences between the kind of groups Remain and Leave supports trust to talk about the EU referendum.

Wes Streeting, a Labour MP campaigning for the UK to stay in the EU said: "This is a shocking and cynical attempt by the Leave campaign to try to muzzle independent expert opinion, which is rightly warning of the serious dangers of Britain leaving Europe.

"The governor of the Bank of England has a duty to set out future risks to our economy."

Mark Carney will today get one of his last chances to discuss Brexit before the 23 June vote, as the Bank's monetary policy committee (MPC) announces its latest interest rate decision and the governor delivers his annual Mansion House speech.

While the minutes of the MPC's discussion is likely to focus heavily on the referendum, Carney will use his speech this evening to discuss the fintech sector and the future of financial services.

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