Former Bank of England governor Mervyn King has criticised arguments in the debate over Britain’s European Union membership that he said “insult the intelligence of voters,” British media reported on Monday.
King, who steered UK monetary policy for 10 years to 2013, was speaking at Britain’s Hay Festival, an arts event.
Britons will decide on June 23 whether to leave or stick with the EU, with important implications for the future of Britain’s economic and trade relations and for the EU itself.
“Both sides have been engaged in a public relations campaign which insults the intelligence of the voters by making wildly exaggerated claims,” King said, decrying the debate as a missed opportunity. He declined to say which way he was voting.
“The government has to take some responsibility for setting the tone of this,” he was reported as saying.
The campaign has been characterised by sniping. Conservative “Out” campaigner Boris Johnson has said the EU is following the path of Adolf Hitler and Napoleon by trying to create a doomed European super state, while one of his opponents retorted that he feared for Johnson’s judgment.
King said he believed that Prime Minister David Cameron, campaigning for a “remain” vote, would have difficulty uniting his party after the vote. This weekend one Conservative lawmaker called on the prime minister to step down after the vote.
UK lawmakers said last week that both sides had made false claims about the merits of staying or leaving, setting a test for the public’s patience.
They said there would probably be a short-term economic cost if Britain were to leave the EU, echoing the views of most economists and the Bank of England.
Cameron held a pro-EU rally on Monday in which he shared a cross-party platform with London’s newly-elected mayor Sadiq Khan, a member of the opposition Labour Party.
Their joint appearance set aside the animosity of the mayoral election campaign just a few weeks ago in which Cameron’s party tried to link Khan to extremism.