Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said today it was important that the British government provide clarity on how it will proceed with a planned referendum on the country's membership of the European Union.

Mr Carney told BBC radio that Britain's access to the EU's common market was one of its big economic advantages. 

"It's the largest economy in the world. It's our largest investment destination. It's the largest investor in the United Kingdom," he said.

So far, there was no sign that businesses were putting off investment decisions because of uncertainty over the referendum but it was important to be clear about the road ahead, he said.

"It's in the interests of everybody that there is clarity about the process and the question and the decision," Carney said in an interview with the broadcaster. 

Pressed on whether Prime Minister David Cameron should act sooner than his deadline of holding the referendum by the end of 2017, Carney declined to say what the timetable should be. 

"The government has made it clear that it is a priority. I am sure the government will act with appropriate speed in developing the negotiations," he said.

Mr Cameron's spokesman said earlier this week that the prime minister would call the referendum earlier than the end of 2017 deadline if he can first reach a deal that satisfies his demands for major changes in Britain's relationship with the bloc.