Bank of England under pressure to publish planned Brexit risks report

Bank Of England Building

The head of an influential parliamentary committee has demanded the Bank of England publish its secret probe into the impact of an EU referendum, warning that it should expect a thorough examination of the report by MPs.

Andrew Tyrie, who heads the Treasury select committee, said MPs would demand to interview Sir Jon Cunliffe and other officials involved in the planned project, which was uncovered after Threadneedle Street’s chief press officer accidentally emailed details to The Guardian.

Tyrie, who is hoping to be re-elected as chairman of the committee when parliament reconvenes, said he was concerned that some people inside the bank believed the research, known as Project Bookend, could escape interrogation by MPs.

He said: “The next Treasury committee would want to examine this actively. The bank will be expected to provide a view on how the substantive issues bear on its mandate,” he said.

Tyrie’s intervention will put further pressure on the bank to reveal the scope and timescale of its investigation into the impact of an EU referendum. Bank officials plan to examine the potential impact of a no vote on the City and financial markets.

The email revealed that bank officials were involved in a campaign to prevent staff and the press from discovering the nature of the investigation. It detailed how one official sent on secondment to head the Bookend research team planned to mislead his staff about its remit.

Earlier, the shadow chancellor questioned why the bank had been trying to keep the project under wraps. Chris Leslie also called on George Osborne to reveal what he knew about the secret project.

“We now need to know whether the Bank of England report will be published in time for everyone to consider the facts before a referendum,” he said. “The bank must make clear the timetable for Project Bookend and the identity of the people who are involved in reaching its conclusions. Were the chancellor and Treasury aware of this secret report? If so, when did they know and did they advise the Bank of England to publish it? If not, are ministers commissioning their own assessment and will that be published?

The bank said in a statement that it planned to publish its findings “at the appropriate time”. It added that officials would continue to examine the impact of major political events behind closed doors.

It said: “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.”

A Treasury spokeswoman said: “The Bank of England is an independent body and as such determines its own work programme. ‎Of course it discusses its work with the Treasury on an ongoing basis, but we do not go into the specifics of private discussions.

“The Treasury, along with the rest of government, is focusing on renegotiation with the EU, to get the best deal for the UK. There will then be a need for analysis and an informed debate on the issues once the renegotiation is complete.”

The EU referendum has jumped to the top of the political agenda since the Conservatives won an outright majority in the election earlier this month. David Cameron, who was in the Latvian capital Riga with other EU leaders over the weekend, has invited European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, for talks on Monday at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Phillip Inman Economics correspondent, for theguardian.com on Saturday 23rd May 2015 21.43 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010