|Posted by George Freund on May 23, 2015 at 3:55 PM|
Highly confidential: There are concerns an exit would adversely affect the economy, and the Bank was looking into the implications of an exit from the EU in 2017
Email was forwarded on to The Guardian by the Bank's head of press
Included advice on how to keep taskforce's existence out of the media
Reveals the team will look into financial implications of Britain leaving EU
Shadow chancellor has questioned why the Bank felt the need for secrecy
By FLORA DRURY FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 08:09 GMT, 23 May 2015 | UPDATED: 12:34 GMT, 23 May 2015
The Bank of England has revealed it has a top secret taskforce looking into 'Brexit' - after bungling staff accidentally emailing the highly confidential details to a newspaper.
The top secret email detailing the project - codenamed Project Bookend - was mistakenly forwarded to a Guardian editor on Thursday by the Bank's head of press.
The embarrassing gaffe is made worse by the fact the email outlines what should be said to the media were they to ask of the existence of any such investigation in order to keep it under wraps.
Mistake: The email revealed the taskforce was meant to be kept secret - but it was sent to a Guardian editor in what is no doubt an embarrassing gaffe for Bank of England governor Mark Carney (pictured)
The Guardian says the email states questions from 'other parties (eg: the press) about “whether this was a project to look at the referendum”, should be given the answer “that there is a lot going on in the next couple of months – pointing to some of the specific European economic issues (eg: Greece) that would be of concern to the Bank”'.
The Bank's taskforce is to be made up of four senior staff, led by Sir Jon Cunliffe, who as deputy director for financial stability has responsibility for monitoring the risk of another market crash.
They will be charged with looking into the implications of a 'Brexit' on the economy should an in-out referendum, due to be held in 2017, come out in favour of leaving the European Union.
Prime Minister David Cameron is currently touring Europe, trying to get a deal on reform from other leaders.
But they were planning to keep their work quiet - even keeping the majority of Bank staff in the dark.
Today, the Bank was forced to hold its hands up to the error, but pointed out it was only to be expected that it would look at the implications of a Brexit.
'It should not come as a surprise that the Bank is undertaking such work about a stated government policy,' a spokesman said.
'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.'
But why they were trying to keep it secret has been questioned by shadow chancellor Chris Leslie, who also demanded to know what George Osborne knew about the work.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'It's a very momentous decision that the country is facing, it's incredibly important for our place in the world and we have got to have the full information and analysis so that the British people can reach an informed decision.
'I don't think it's unreasonable to have an assessment of the consequences for jobs, trade and living standards, but why on earth so much secrecy and concealment?
'I can't really see why there should be so many hidden agendas here, I think we have got to have an open and transparent and frank debate, not facts hidden from public view.'
The Bank defended its decision, however.
'It is not sensible to talk about this work publicly, in advance,' the spokesman said.
'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.'