AFTER the Brexit vote of 2016 the Bank of England unveiled a package of emergency measures. That August the monetary-policy committee (MPC) launched extra quantitative easing and cut Bank Rate, the benchmark interest rate, from 0.5% to 0.25%. It also introduced the “term funding scheme” (TFS), which channels ultra-cheap credit to banks.

As The Economist went to press on February 8th the MPC was expected to keep interest rates on hold. Yet it was also expected to confirm the end of the TFS, possibly as soon as this month. Some analysts worry that the move will damage Britain’s shaky economic growth.

The TFS was designed to alleviate problems that can emerge when monetary policy is already very loose. Cutting to 0.25% risked squeezing the margin between what banks paid savers and what they charged borrowers. Banks are loth to offer savers a negative interest rate, lest their disgruntled customers pull out their money and stick it under the mattress. So it is difficult for them to pass on lower rates to borrowers and remain profitable.

Under the TFS, therefore, banks were able to borrow an amount equal to up to 5% of their existing loan books, at a rate near Bank Rate. Depending on how much extra lending was done, they were entitled to additional funds. Banks have drawn around £100bn ($140bn) from the scheme.

The introduction of the TFS coincided with falling lending rates. Since August 2016 the rate on the average new mortgage has dropped from 2.3% to 2%. Some say this is because of heightened competition in the banking industry, including from small “challenger” banks. Yet Mark Carney, the bank’s governor, has argued that the TFS has been “effective at ensuring that the low level of Bank Rate has been passed through to real-economy lending rates.” The IMF seems to be cautiously positive about the scheme’s impact.

Lately, however, the scheme may have run its course. Banks are less in need of help than they were in mid-2016. The trend has been towards lower usage of the TFS, having more than halved last month relative to a year earlier. George Buckley of Nomura, a bank, suggests that as banks’ creditworthiness has continued to improve in the past year, their funding costs in private markets have fallen relative to Bank Rate.

Perhaps more important is that the MPC has begun tightening monetary policy for the first time in a decade. In November it raised rates from 0.25% to 0.5%. With rates back to their pre-referendum level, there is less of a squeeze on banks’ margins.

Still, the end of the TFS worries some, especially as Britain’s economy remains fragile. Some banks have drawn heavily on the scheme to fund their lending growth. Samuel Tombs of Pantheon Macroeconomics, a consultancy, sees average rates on new mortgages jumping by 0.25 percentage points as a consequence of its withdrawal. And with inflation still above the bank’s 2% target, two or three more rate rises are likely to follow soon. The end of the TFS is the opening act in a year of tighter monetary policy.