The Bank of England is actively assessing the implications of a British exit from the European Union, it said in a statement, confirming an email it accidentally sent to a newspaper about the confidential research project.
On Friday British newspaper The Guardian reported on an email from a senior aide in the bank that said the project should be kept secret from most BoE staff. It further specifically addressed how to handle media inquiries, instructing staffers to lie and say that the Bank was looking at a broad range of European economic issues.
Hard-line conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was just re-elected on May 7, has pledged to reshape Britain's ties with the EU and then hold an in or out membership referendum by the end of 2017.
The BoE, as with last year's referendum on Scottish independence, is keen to avoid any suggestion it is entering a political debate.
After the embarrassing email leak on Friday evening, the Bank confirmed its intention to launch the assessment.
"It should not come as a surprise that the Bank is undertaking such work about a stated government policy," it said in the statement posted on its website in response to the leak.
"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."
Deutsche Bank, whom readers may remember from its record settlements for illegal activities, said on May 19th it had begun initial preparations for a British exit from the EU.
The BoE said it would not talk about its assessment in advance but would disclose details "at the appropriate time", adding it had taken a similar approach when it considered the implications of last year's Scottish referendum.
"While it is unfortunate that this information has entered the public domain in this way, the Bank will maintain this approach," the statement read.
Chris Leslie, finance spokesman for the opposition Labour party, said it was vital Britons were given a full analysis of the facts ahead of time, with "no hidden agendas".
"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, adding the Bank should provide a clear timetable and identify the people involved in the research project.