The Bank of England are secretly researching the effects of leaving the European Union, as revealed when the bank accidentally sent an email to a newspaper revealing details of the plan.
Senior officials at the bank were instructed to tell the public and media that they were “working on a short-term project on European economics” and not to mention its connection to the upcoming EU referendum due to take place in 2017.
Staff at the Bank, the UK’s main financial regulator, have been kept in the dark about the investigation – dubbed Project Bookend.
It is being led by Sir Jon Cunliffe, the institution’s deputy director for financial stability, who is tasked with tracking and monitoring the risk of another market crash.
The shock revelations will spark fears that the bank is against leaving the EU at a time when City firms have been engaged in a war of words over a potential in/out referendum.
But the report is unlikely to be revealed to the public, as MPs cannot demand its publication without an official notice of the project.
Other staff listed on the accidentally-leaked email include governor Mark Carney’s private secretary Iain de Weymarn, head of risk assessment Nicola Anderson, director of international Phil Evans and communications boss Jenny Scott.
A Bank spokesman said: “It is stated government policy that there will be a renegotiation and national referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union at some point.
“It should not come as a surprise that there are a range of economic and financial issues that arise in the context of the renegotiation and national referendum and it is part of the Bank’s function to assess therse in order to deliver its objectives.
The spokesman continued: “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.”
Earlier this week scandal-hit German bank Deutsche Bank revealed it is considering leaving Britain ahead of an in/out vote.
But senior figures at building equipment firm JCB suggested the UK would not suffer any adverse effects from leaving the EU.
Lord Bamford, a Tory donor, backed the idea of Britain leaving the EU, telling the BBC the country could exist “peacefully and sensibly” on its own.
And JCB chief executive Graeme Macdonald said that Britain should leave the EU unless it reforms, playing down fears that an exit could hit exports to the Continent.
“I really don’t think it would make a blind bit of difference to trade with Europe (if the UK left an unreformed EU),” he told the Guardian.
“There has been far too much scaremongering about things like jobs. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to stop trade. I don’t think we or Brussels will put up trade barriers.”