Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The EU referendum 3 - Who is allowed to speak?

Grilled by MPs on a select committee, the Governor of the Bank of England expressed his views that a UK withdrawal from the EU would have worse consequences for the economy than if we remained. He then added that he was not in any way trying to influence anyone's views.

These comments have drawn a storm of protest from those who believe the UK should leave. Mr. Carney has been accused of speaking when he should, as a public official remain silent. Indeed, one MP, Mr. Rees-Mogg, has said his remarks were beneath the dignity of the Bank.

In truth, the poor man (Mr. Carney, not Mr. Rees-Mogg) was going to get it in the neck no matter what he said. Keep schtum and he will be told that he is failing in his duty, as one of the highest-placed financial experts in the country, to advise the Government and the public. Speak a view and be blasted for having partisan ideas. Put up a measured and balance argument that favours neither side and everybody will have a go at him for sitting on the fence and failing to provide leadership.

What he said is really not that objectionable. People making long-term decisions in business need a degree of certainty. Leaving the EU would create an enormous uncertainty about the future of this country. Investors would shy away, the pound would fall in value, financial markets would be shaken. Perhaps the longer-term advantages would outweigh these immediate consequences. I do not believe so, and I suspect Mr. Carney does not; Mr Rees-Mogg probably thinks a heavenly choir of angels will give everyone a bar of gold on the day we close the entrance to the Channel Tunnel and he is entitled to his opinions, but I hope his voice is drowned out.

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