Mark Carney and Vote Leave trade blows over Bank of England's referendum interventions

Jake Cordell
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Mark Carney has been defiant that the Bank of England must have a voice in the referendum campaign
Mark Carney has been defiant that the Bank of England must have a voice in the referendum campaign (Source: Getty)

Mark Carney has clashed with a top Brexit campaigner over the Bank of England's role in the referendum campaign in a tense exchange of letters, revealed this morning.

Bernard Jenkin, a director at the official campaign group Vote Leave, wrote to the governor of the Bank of England earlier this week raising concerns he would make "further public comment" about the referendum before the 23 June vote.

He went on to remind the governor of the purdah rules which limit what public bodies can and cannot say in the weeks before the referendum. But, in a surprisingly robust defence, Carney insisted he would not let intimidation stop the Bank from carrying out its remit and, where appropriate, talking about the upcoming vote.

Jenkin wrote: "I am sure you [Mark Carney] are aware that you are prohibited from making any public comment, or doing anything, which could be construed as taking part in the referendum debate," as he attached a full copy of the purdah rules in a letter to Carney sent on Monday.

Do you trust the Bank?

Trust Do not trust
Remain supporters 61 per cent 27 per cent
Leave supporters 19 per cent 64 per cent

YouGov polling shows Remain supporters are much more likely to trust the Bank of England to talk about the EU referendum.

The Canadian central banker who has been at the helm of the Old Lady since 2013 wasted no time in hitting back. In a letter dated yesterday the governor said: "I am responding to your letter to dispel immediately the numerous and substantial misconceptions it contained.

"Your letter demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of central bank independence."

The governor outlined that the Bank is technically exempt from purdah rules, though it has "voluntarily determined to observe pre-referendum purdah in the spirit of the guidelines issued by the Cabinet Office."

Nevertheless, "the Bank must assess the implications of the UK's EU membership for our ability to achieve our core objectives. The Bank has a duty to report out evidence-based judgments to parliament and the public.

Mark Carney could be forgiven for putting the headphones on as he faces accusations that the Bank's independence has been compromised by Leave campaigners

In a separate attack on the Bank of England's independence, two former Conservative chancellors and two ex-leaders accused it of joining David Cameron and George Osborne in peddling "phoney" economic forecasts.

Carney went on to warn Jenkin that the Bank will continue, where appropriate, to make references to the EU referendum as it affects the Bank's daily operations.

The minutes of the latest monetary policy committee (MPC) meeting will be published today and "may therefore make reference to referendum effects," Carney said.

Read more: Brexit could mean more quantitative easing

"This is entirely appropriate, especially if, in the view of the independent MPC, the data on which our monetary policy decision is based are being affected by the referendum."

The governor won the support of former chancellor Alistair Darling and the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign for his rebuttal.

"This is a blatant attempt to muzzle a respected independent voice ... It is very clear that the Leave campaign doesn't want people to hear what the Bank has to say," he said.

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