Secret Bank of England plans regarding a possible Brexit – Britain leaving the EU – have come to the public eye after a senior official sent a super-confidential email to an editor of the Guardian newspaper ‘by mistake’.
A Bank of England (BoE) spokesman said the ‘inadvertent’ mistake was ‘unfortunate’.
One of Prime Minister David Cameron’s election pledges was to have a referendum on Britain’s EU (European Union) membership by the end of 2017. Some politicians have said he is considering an earlier national vote on the matter.
The BoE wants to know what impact a Brexit might have on the economy and financial markets.
According to the Guardian, the email suggests that a small group of senior BoE experts plans to examine what the economic impact might be if the UK opts to leave the EU. The study is to be led by the Deputy Director for financial stability, Sir Jon Cunliffe.
Email tells officials how to respond to questions
The email instructs all BoE officials to say that the project – known as Project Bookend – covers a ‘broad range of European economic’ issues, and to avoid mentioning the impending referendum.
The Guardian says the email was sent by Sir Jon’s private secretary to four BoE senior executives on 21 May, 2015.
Apparently, James Talbot, who heads the central bank’s Assessments and Strategy Division, is also part of the taskforce.
Below is part of the email quote by the Guardian:
“Jon’s proposal, which he has asked me to highlight to you, is that no email is sent to James’s team or more broadly around the Bank about the project.”
“James can tell his team that he is working on a short-term project on European economics in International (division) which will last a couple of months. This will be in-depth work on a broad range of European economic issues. Ideally he would then say no more.”
The email proposes that should taskforce members be asked whether the project might be covering the referendum, they should respond that there is a lot going on in Europe in the next few months, and point to some specific European economic issues, such as Greece ‘that would be of concern to the Bank.’
‘One of the Bank’s responsibilities’
On Thursday, the BoE released the following official statement:
“Today, information related to planned confidential Bank work on the potential implications of a renegotiation and national referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union made its way into the public domain, due to an internal email sent inadvertently to an external party.”
“It should not come as a surprise that the Bank is undertaking such work about a stated government policy. There are a range of economic and financial issues that arise in the context of the renegotiation and national referendum. It is one of the Bank’s responsibilities to assess those that relate to its objectives.”
“It is not sensible to talk about this work publicly, in advance. But as with work done prior to the Scottish referendum, we will disclose the details of such work at the appropriate time.”
“While it is unfortunate that this information has entered the public domain in this way, the Bank will maintain this approach.”
Businesses urged to turn up volume on EU debate
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which represents 190,000 businesses, this week made clear its desire for the country to remain in the EU.
CBI President, Sir Mike Rake, told an audience of more than 1,000 business leaders, journalists and politicians that there are opportunities to reform the EU. He was joined by Chancellor George Osborne as keynote speaker at the 2015 CBI Annual Dinner.
Sir Mike urged businesses to turn up the volume in the EU referendum debate “…speaking out clearly and in a language which people can understand.”
There is alarm in the British business community about a possible “No” vote in the EU referendum. Some American and Japanese multinationals have already said they might re-consider their UK commitment if the country left the trade bloc.
Many non-European multinationals have their European regional headquarters in the UK. Some experts believe that a Brexit would encourage most major foreign financial institutions to move the bulk of their personnel and operations from London to Frankfurt.
Update Oct 9, 2015: The Brexit movement took a huge leap forward yesterday when ‘Leave Now’, a cross-party campaign to get the UK out of the EU, was launched. Leave Now has members from across the political spectrum.
Video – Airbus warns UK on Brexit threat
Airbus, one of the biggest foreign manufacturing employers in Britain, has warned that future investment could be under threat if the UK left the EU.