Plan A+: Creating a prosperous post-Brexit UK
IEA Current Controversies 71
In her Mansion House speech, then Prime Minister Theresa May stated that the UK’s regulations need not be identical to the EU’s, even if they would achieve the same outcomes. But the government White Paper (The future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union) proposed that the UK would have substantively harmonised regulations with the EU, which, with the customs arrangement it outlined, would mean it is hard to see how any independent trade policy is possible. It also described a swathe of other ways in which the UK would be unable to determine its regulations.
The UK regulating its own economy will not render a deal with the EU impossible. As this paper will outline, it has the capacity to increase economic growth, let the UK do other trade deals, and create leverage to get positive results from EU negotiations. Political, trade and regulatory independence is therefore not just an ideological position, but, we propose, what makes the bulk of the gains possible.
This proposal will set these out and demonstrate what is likely to be lost if the UK government maintains a model similar to the approach adopted at the Chequers cabinet meeting in July 2018, further elaborated in the White Paper, or one even more closely aligned to the EU. In the document that follows, these proposals can be understood as part of a possible spectrum of options, in which this contribution outlines our view.
Meanwhile, the economic scale of the possibility suggests the opportunity to create prosperity when serious economic distortions are removed. This is a framework outlining how the UK can still attain the opportunity ahead.
Plan A+ Timeline
21st Sept 2018 – The IEA sends out a press notice to several hundred
journalists promoting the launch of its new discussion paper, “Plan A+”,
which is due to take place on 24th September.
22nd Sept 2018 – The IEA’s Chairman and Director General agree to a
series of actions to ensure compliance with the Charity Commission’s rule
CC9 – including a scripted intervention at the start of the launch by the
Director General making it plain that the panellists speak for themselves,
not the IEA, and that the thoughts and ideas in the discussion paper are
those of the authors and not the corporate view of the IEA.
24th Sept 2018 – “Plan A+” is launched at a central London venue in front
of an audience of around 200 people, including a wide range of print and
broadcast media. The report and its launch secure substantial media
coverage across a substantial variety of platforms.
2nd Nov 2018 – The Charity Commission issues the IEA with an intention
notice for an Official Warning for the Plan A+ publication and launch. The
IEA is instructed to remove Plan A+, implement a new Trustee led sign-off
process for future publications and launch plans, and provide written
assurance of future compliance. The grounds cited by the Charity Commission
for their intention to issue an Official Warning to the IEA are that:
– Plan A+ is political activity as it recommends an alternative to the
Chequers Plan, which was the policy of the then Government.
– It is insufficiently balanced and neutral.
– As it is written by staff writers it must be the corporate view of the IEA.
– That the launch panel were all Eurosceptics which created a perception
– That the launch was in public meant that it was not educational.
– That in the launch script the DG said he hoped people would find the
report “persuasive, perhaps even compelling”, shows the purpose was
advocacy as the remarks are insufficiently neutral and do not allow the
listener to reach their own conclusions.
19th Nov 2018 – The IEA surrenders the copyright on “Plan A+”, allowing
others to publish it if they wish. Plan A+ is removed from the IEA website
and the IEA ceases distribution of hard copies.
23rd Nov 2018 – The IEA notifies the Commission of removal of “Plan
A+”, of compliance with CC9 and requests dialogue with the Commission
on ideas for new review processes. Although complying with the
Commission’s specific requests, the IEA indicates that it will seek to
challenge the issuance of any Official Warning.
7th Dec 2018 – Without consultation with the think tank sector, the Charity
Commission issue a Regulatory Alert notice to 118 think tanks. Part of it
reaffirms existing sources of legal guidance in CC9 and the Advancement
of Education for the Public Benefit, which are broadly correct. Part of it,
posted as legal guidance, appears instead to be preferred practice, and
could be used to infract almost any output from any think tank. For example,
it suggests it is “not acceptable” if reports contain “arguments based on
opinions or suppositions”.
5th February 2019 – The Charity Commission issue the IEA with a public
Official Warning. The requested actions of the IEA remain the same, albeit
on revised grounds, that:
– Seeking to change government policy on Brexit does not advance
– The report did not link to a different perspective that might have provided
‘balance in the round’ therefore was insufficiently balanced and neutral.
– The launch panel contained vocal supporters of Brexit, but who opposed
government policy, and this meant the event was political activity not
– Three of the four politicians on the launch panel were from the same
political party and this risked perception of bias
– The launch was in the public media spotlight and this meant it was
campaigning or lobbying activity.
19th March 2019 – The IEA requests that the Charity Commission conducts
a Decision Review (DR) of its issuance of the Official Warning. Amongst
the submissions sent by the IEA to the Charity Commission are:
– A letter and evidence pack rejecting the arguments made in the Official
– A revised copy of Plan A+ taking on board comments in the DR
– A draft launch plan for the revised version of Plan A+
– A draft ‘Flag report’ on the revised Plan A+ (a one-page tool for reviewing
regulatory compliance of the IEA’s activities)
– A note on the specific changes to the Plan A+ document, which amount
to altering or deleting approximately 500 words out of a text of 44,000
words to comply with the Commission’s objections
– Evidence of “balance in the round” across IEA output on the topic of
Brexit and the EU. For example, an IEA researcher’s work supporting
UK membership of the EU or embracing the “Norway model” if the UK
left the EU.
11th April 2019 – The IEA contact the Charity Commission to ensure they
have received the request for a Decision Review of the Official Warning.
The IEA are informed by the Commission that “we are still receiving a lot
of complaints about the IEA”.
29th April 2019 – The IEA contact the Commission again to ensure the
request for a Decision Review has been received and is being processed.
1st May 2019 – The Commission confirm to the IEA that the request for
a Decision Review has been taken up at board level.
20th May 2019 – The Commission confirm that Kenneth Dibble, a Charity
Commissioner and the Commission’s former Head of Legal will be
conducting the Decision Review.
21st May 2019 – The IEA writes to the Charity Commission expressing
concern over the appointment of Kenneth Dibble and requesting that he
be recused. The IEA notes that he was Head of Legal until 2018 and would
likely have advised senior staff relating to previous complaints against the
IEA, that his legal opinions on a point of charity law had already been
referenced in submitted evidence and that it is unusual for lawyers to act
as judges over their own previous decisions and advice. This is not accepted
by the CC.
27th June 2019 – The Charity Commission publishes its Decision Review
on the Official Warning issued to the IEA. The Official Warning must be
withdrawn with immediate effect. The Review accepts some but not all
errors, and some but not all of the complaint on unfair treatment.
10th July 2019 – The Official Warning against the IEA on the Commission’s
website is amended to say “Withdrawn” at the top and adding a line at the
bottom sating, “Update to reflect that the Official Warning issued against
the IEA has now been withdrawn. The Official Warning applied properly
until its withdrawal in June 2019.” The IEA and CC remain in disagreement
on this latter point.
30th July 2019 – The Charity Commission write to confirm that the revised
Plan A+ goes “a long way to resolving the issue… however… some limited
additional work is still necessary”. Principally around tone, for example it
not being appropriate to say “should implement the strategy” or “The UK
should initiate discussions with China”… “In a number of cases, simply
changing ‘should’ to ‘could’ would resolve the issue.” … “We do not think
it would take a lot of editing to ensure that the report is primarily of an
educational nature, notwithstanding its political subject matter, for the
benefit of the public – including Government.”
September 2019 – Having made these additional changes, amounting
to 3113 words or phrases changed overall from the original Plan A+, the
IEA releases the revised and amended version of Plan A+.