Legatum Institute in volte face on Charity Commission criticism

The think tank has accepted that it 'crossed the line' in a report on free trade after Brexit

The Legatum Institute
The Legatum Institute

The Legatum Institute Foundation has rowed back from its criticism of a Charity Commission instruction to remove a controversial report on free trade after Brexit from its website and accepted the regulator’s ruling.

The think tank, which is a registered charity, has now acknowledged that it "crossed a line" in publishing a report called The Brexit Inflection Point.

The charity was accused last year of acting to promote the views of "pro-Brexiteers", particularly with regards to the report.

After a Charity Commission compliance case was concluded today, the charity was told to remove the report from its website because it was deemed not to be balanced and neutral because of the views expressed about the UK’s potential trade policy post-Brexit.

Charities are prohibited from pushing political positions and have a legal obligation to advance education for the public benefit.

The Legatum Institute originally rejected the regulator’s claims that the report promoted a political position and said in a statement to Third Sector last night that its views on free trade were "informed by empirical evidence", but had agreed to remove the report.

Alan McCormick, chair of the Legatum Institute, said in response to Third Sector’s original request for comment: "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."

But in a new statement posted on the charity’s website today, McCormick said he accepted that the charity had crossed the line, albeit unintentionally.

"We are pleased that the commission has concluded its review of the Legatum Institute," he said. "As a board, the trustees take very seriously the institute’s responsibility to educate the general public about how individuals, communities and nations can create the pathways from poverty to prosperity.

"We acknowledge the commission’s conclusion that the Brexit inflection report crossed a line – from the institute’s perspective, this was wholly unintentional. In addition, we understand, and will fulfil, the commission’s request to remove the report from our website."

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