Bank of England (2)

Interest rates have now been at 0.5% for seven years, following the Bank of England's latest decision to keep them on hold.

The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), which makes the decision on interest rates, voted unanimously to keep them at 0.5% for another month. The Bank is not expected to raise rates until the summer at the very earliest.

Uncertainty focused around the EU referendum has already hit the value of the sterling and could slow economic growth, the Bank of England warned.

"There appears to be increased uncertainty surrounding the forthcoming referendum," the MPC said.

"That uncertainty is likely to have been a significant driver of the decline in sterling.

"It may also delay some spending decisions and depress growth of aggregate demand in the near term."

Earlier this month, the governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney said membership of the European Union had helped the UK economy. But he stressed that the Bank "will not be making, and nothing we say should be interpreted as making, any recommendation with respect to that [referendum] decision.”

Image: Parliament Live Image: Parliament Live

The Bank again said that interest rates were more likely to rise than fall over the next two years, but repeated that any increases would be gradual.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at economic researcher Markit, said: The Bank highlighted how uncertainty regarding the June vote on the UK's membership of the EU is exacerbating wider concerns about the domestic and global economic outlook.

"Policymakers noted how spending by businesses and overall demand in the economy could weaken as a result of the intensifying Brexit fears, which would worsen an already shaky start to the year."