‘A matter for the Bank of England’: Liz Truss refuses to discuss if UK in recession

Liz Truss has refused to discuss fears that the UK is already in recession, insisting the downturn in the economy is “a matter for the Bank of England”.

The Bank issued the warning last week – as it hiked interest rates to 2.25 per cent, their highest level for 14 years – but the prime minister argued it was not her responsibility.

The comment came as the chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, claimed he could not comment on “market movements” following the plunge in the pound after Friday’s tax-slashing Budget.

Speaking to CNN in the United States, Ms Truss also dismissed suggestions of a referendum on Irish reunification now that Catholics outnumbered Protestants in Northern Ireland.

She insisted she wanted a “negotiated solution” of the Northern Ireland protocol, while indicating she would not back down over the conflict, which threatens a trade war with the EU.

The prime minister was also asked about her apparent championing of “trickle-down economics” – the theory that handing big gains to the rich will benefit all, which has been condemned by Joe Biden.

She told CNN’s State Of The Union programme: “We all need to decide what the tax rates are in our own country, but my view is we absolutely need to be incentivising growth at what is a very, very difficult time for the global economy.”

But asked about the Bank of England’s warning that the UK might already be in a recession, Ms Truss replied: “That’s a matter for the Bank of England.”

The Good Friday Agreement states that a unification referendum should be called if it is “likely that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom”.

But Ms Truss, asked whether she thought it was just a matter of time before that referendum was staged, replied: “No, I don’t.”

On the protocol, she argued: “What’s important is that we protect and respect the positions of both the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, as well as the unionist community in Northern Ireland.

“So what I want to do is find a way forward, and my preference is a negotiated solution with the EU that protects that north-south relationship, but also protects the east-west relationship, and that is absolutely core to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.”

Asked whether countries might leave the Commonwealth after the Queen’s death, Ms Truss said: “It’s a decision for any country about how they decide to organise themselves.”

But she added: “I think the Commonwealth is a force for good. It’s a believer in freedom and democracy and we need more of that in a world where we are facing these authoritarian regimes who want to subvert those ideas.”