Bank of England policymaker Paul Fisher said on Thursday there was a good chance that Britain could suffer another recession and that more asset purchases could be necessary after the current round is completed.
The economy has barely grown over the last 12 months, unemployment has started to rise again and consumers are cutting back spending as soaring prices, higher taxes and slow wage increases hit their budgets.
The economy exited its last recession in mid-2009.
I think it is a significant chance. Looking at Q4 for example, at best it seems likely to be flat, could easily have negative growth, so the technical outcome of two quarters of negative growth in a row could quite easily come about, Fisher, the central bank's executive director for markets, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
The central bank has launched a second round of asset purchases worth 75 billion pounds to try to stimulate growth. It has also kept interest rates at a record low of 0.5 percent since March 2009.
It takes some time to purchase these large scales of assets, so we think the four months running up to February is a sensible period of time to buy 75 billion, Fisher said.
And when we get to that point we can stop and see whether or not we think we need to go further.
Fisher said in a separate text interview with Bloomberg that he had voted for 75 billion pounds because he was sure that the bank would have to do at least 75 billion of easing.
Bank justifies QE on the basis that inflation has probably already peaked at September's three-year high of 5.2 percent, and that without QE it is likely to undershoot its 2 percent target in the medium term due to weaker global growth.
Like Governor Mervyn King and other Bank policymakers before, Fisher said inflation should fall back significantly early next year when one-off factors like the increase in VAT fall out of the equation.
We were previously forecasting inflation to fall back on the central projection somewhere between 1.5 and 2 percent, looking 2 or 3 years ahead, Fisher said. It is likely that without building in the effect from restarting the asset purchase program, we would have had a significantly lower inflation forecast.
While noting the uncertainties for the outlook, Fisher saw the biggest danger in inflation falling too far. The big risk for us is that a significantly weak economy would push us back into deflation and that's the really tricky problem to get out of once you get there, he said.
With the government's hands tied by its pledge to erase a budget deficit of some 10 percent over the next 5 years, the onus to boost growth has been on Bank.
I think that the overall combination of a tight fiscal policy and loose monetary policy is the right one for the country at the moment, Fisher said.
Bank policymaker said Britain was viewed as a safe haven by investors. If people did not have confidence in the UK, you would not see gilt yields as low, Fisher said. I take some comfort from the stability of sterling.
Fisher also said that Britain's banks were in a better position than a year or two ago to weather the risks stemming from the euro debt crisis.
They've got big improvements in their capital base, big improvements in their liquidity; they've been deleveraging their balance sheets, he said.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Anna Willard)