May says 'citizen of the world' criticism was aimed at firms

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May said criticisms she made last month about “citizens of the world” were aimed at company executives and firms that did not pay taxes.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (L) reads a joint statement with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi (unseen) at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Newspapers have said Bank of England Governor Mark Carney felt the comments were aimed at him.

May’s criticisms were made in a speech at her Conservative Party’s annual conference in October in which she also noted the “bad side-effects” of the BoE’s low interest rates.

During a meeting with reporters on a plane heading to India for a visit which began on Sunday, May was asked by a reporter who she was referring to when she said “if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere” last month.

“What I was talking about was the importance of people recognising the role that they play in local communities, and the responsibilities that they have, for example in any country that they are operating in, to abide by the rules and pay their tax,” she said.

May also said it was right that the BoE makes independent decisions on monetary policy, reiterating comments made last month by her spokeswoman, but the government should recognise the impact of low interest rates.

“I think we need to recognise the impact of decisions that have been taken, necessary decisions that have been taken in the monetary field,” she said. “The Bank of England is independent and they make these decisions as to what is necessary and it is right that they do so.”

May’s original comments prompted Carney to say last month that he would not “take instruction” from politicians on how to set rates, triggering a debate about whether the government was trying to influence the BoE which is operationally independent.

Carney said last week that he would extend his term by a year to June 2019 by which time Britain is expected to have concluded its negotiations to leave the European Union.

A BoE spokesman declined to comment on the newspaper reports that Carney believed the “citizen of the world” comments were aimed at him.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by William Schomberg