Osborne Cancels G20 Talks Visit

Chancellor George Osborne and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney are pulling out of G20 talks in Australia due to the “economic risks” of a potential vote for independence in Scotland.

The two men had been due to attend the meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Cairns on September 20th and 21st - the weekend after the poll on independence.

However the Bank confirmed that Mr Carney - who is due to chair a plenary meeting of the financial stability board of bank regulators in Cairns on Wednesday - will now return early to be back in time for the result.

The Bank said Mr Carney will be represented at the G20 by the deputy governor for financial stability, Sir Jon Cunliffe.

Mr Osborne said it is important to remain in the UK to deal with the aftermath of the September 18 vote, and denied he is panicking.

Asked about the dangers of capital flight from Scotland in the event of a Yes vote, he said: “There is now a referendum campaign under way. The Governor of the Bank of England has confirmed that there are contingency arrangements in place at the Bank.

“For my own perspective I have taken the decision that I won't go to G20 finance ministers meeting in Australia next week. I think it is important, given the economic risks of one potential outcome of that referendum, that I'm here in the UK.

“The Governor of the Bank of England has quite independently come to the same conclusion.”

The Chancellor, attending a UK-China economic conference in London, was challenged about the timing of the decision, but insisted it is “perfectly reasonable” to cancel the trip now.

He said: “I think it is sensible, given we have got this referendum, and I think everyone accepts these sorts of referendums don't come round every month, this is a very big moment for our country and a very big decision with permanent consequences.

“I've taken a personal decision that it is sensible for me to be here in the UK because clearly there are economic risks associated with one outcome of the referendum and those have been pointed to by numerous external observers of the British economy.”

Pressed on why the decision had only now been taken, given that the referendum date had been fixed for some time, Mr Osborne said: “It is perfectly reasonable as we approach the referendum that we set out our travel plans and diaries. It's not that surprising.”

First Minister Alex Salmond had called on Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to investigate why “a Treasury source” discussed RBS plans to relocate its headquarters to London if Scotland votes for independence with the BBC several hours before it was announced to the markets.

The Yes camp have also raised concerns about claims the Government had pressured businesses to speak out about the risks of independence.

But Mr Osborne said “we talk to businesses all the time”, and added: “The Cabinet Secretary has dismissed any suggestion that there is something wrong about this.

“I think people should focus on the fact that Alex Salmond does not want to talk about the big economic questions, he does not want to talk about the big economic risks.

“What I think is interesting is you will have seen, just very recently, international investors like UBS, like Credit Suisse, like ING, coming out and speaking about the risks of separation.

“So you have got international investors as well as some of Britain's biggest companies talking about this.”

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