When Mark Carney headed the Bank of Canada, he earned a reputation as a straight talker, someone who wasn't afraid to express his views on everything from consumer debt levels and income inequality to moderation in eating.
Now as governor of the Bank of England, Mr. Carney is facing a backlash over his outspokenness about Britain's future if the country votes to leave the European Union next month. He has clashed with MPs, offered several dire warnings and suggested last week that the country could slip into a technical recession (two consecutive quarters of negative growth) if it opts out of the EU.
All of which has led to some fierce criticism, mainly from those campaigning for Britain to leave the EU. They have called Mr. Carney hysterical, irresponsible and undignified, and some have said he should resign because he has become partisan.
Mr. Carney argues that he is simply doing his job by pointing out the economic consequences of Brexit and outlining the challenges the country will face. "Assessing and reporting major risks does not mean becoming involved in politics," the bank said in a statement last week after a barrage of criticism. "Rather, it would be political to suppress important judgments which relate directly to the bank's remits and which influence our policy actions."
But even economists who agree with Mr. Carney on Brexit find some of his interventions excessive.
"It's a mixed bag," said Tony Yates, a professor of economics at the University of Birmingham who worked at the Bank of England for 20 years and believes that Brexit would hurt the economy. "Yes, there were times, earlier, I think there was some overreach."
Prof. Yates pointed to comments Mr. Carney made last fall when the bank released a report that was seen as a glowing endorsement of EU membership. At the time, Mr. Carney said Britain had been the "leading beneficiary" of the formation of the EU and membership had increased the "openness and dynamism" of the economy.
"I think he strayed a long way from the bank's core remit," Prof. Yates said. "The bank waxed lyrical about the benefits of the EU with lots of quite speculative language involving the supposed dynamism that the U.K. economy gets from being a member."
He added that those kinds of comments have left Mr. Carney open to accusations that he has taken sides.
"In general, it fits a bit of a pattern. Carney has given lectures on inclusive capitalism. He's given lectures on climate change. There's a pattern of filling in for us his own view of denying liberal capitalism which is not really the governor's job," Prof. Yates said.
Other economists disagree and say Mr. Carney is pursuing his mandate appropriately.
"He has played it pretty straight," said Andrew Goodwin, an economist at Oxford Economics in Oxford, England, which has concluded that Britain's economy would be somewhat worse off as a result of Brexit. Mr. Goodwin said Mr. Carney's job is to highlight the impact Brexit will have on inflation, interest rates and the economy. "I'm happy that he has been sticking to his mandate."
Peter Dixon, an economist at Commerzbank in London, said Mr. Carney is in an awkward position. The bank is supposed to be neutral in the debate, but it still has to spell out risks to monetary policy. "He has generally acquitted himself pretty well, despite provocations from the Brexit camp," Mr. Dixon said.
He added that Mr. Carney's status as an outsider is good and bad. "On the plus side, he can speak on the debate with a degree of impartiality which his predecessor might have found difficult. Against that, he is open to the criticism that he is [Chancellor of the Exchequer] George Osborne's hired hand," he said.
Mr. Carney still has at least two years left on his term as governor, meaning that he will have to live with whatever the outcome of the vote on June 23. And polls show the country is evenly divided.
It is clear "which way the BoE is leaning and Carney has few fans in the Brexit camp," Mr. Dixon said. "This may make his position difficult in the event that the U.K. does vote to leave the EU."