A charitable think tank has been ordered by the Charity Commission to remove an allegedly pro-Brexit report from its website after the report was deemed have "crossed a clear line" and was not balanced or neutral.
The report looked at the UK’s potential trade policy after Brexit, but focused on the opportunities Brexit presented, rather than the challenges.
The Legatum Institute rejected the claims that the report promoted a political position and said in a statement that its views on free trade were "informed by empirical evidence".
The report led to the opening of a regulatory compliance case into the charity by the commission last year.
The regulator said today it had concluded that the Brexit report was inconsistent with the requirement that charities advance education for the public benefit, and has ordered its removal from the Legatum Institute’s website.
"A report of this nature should make clear that a desired outcome of free trade is only one of a number of the potential political outcomes that might be sought," the commission’s case report says.
"It should present balanced, neutral evidence and analysis explaining why it has chosen to adopt a free trade perspective over others.
"We concluded that taken as a whole the report may be seen as promoting a political view directed towards securing a particular negotiating position for the aim of a particular final outcome, and recommending specific government action that reflects this."
The commission also issued formal regulatory advice to the charity’s trustees on maintaining independence and neutrality, and managing risk.
David Holdsworth, chief operating officer of the Charity Commission, said: "Charities with educational purposes have a valuable role to play in public debates, but they must act responsibly.
"With this report, the trustees failed to meet the required standards of balance and neutrality."
Alan McCormick, chair of the Legatum Institute, said the charity "stands by its view that free trade and free enterprise have done more to lift people out of poverty than any other system", but would remove the report from its website.
The statement said: "This is not a ‘political’ position but a position informed by empirical evidence and the experience of nations over the centuries – it is supported by a huge body of evidence and research.
"I am therefore concerned by the request to remove the report from our website because it ‘may be’ seen by some as political, and think this should concern all those who wish to see the public engaging with the ideas that can move people and nations from poverty to prosperity."