Thursday 20 August 2020 10:25 am

Trade secretary Liz Truss under fire for personal think tank meetings

Trade secretary Liz Truss is facing criticism after a series of meetings with a pro-hard Brexit think tank were removed from the public record and reclassified as personal discussions.

Two meetings between Truss and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) were originally logged in quarterly transparency data on the government’s website and described as discussions about trade.

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However, they were removed yesterday with a note stating that they were personal meetings.

The Department for International Trade said Truss attended the meetings in a personal capacity and not as a representative of the department.

It said they were put on the transparency return due to an administrative error, adding they held no further information about them.

The IEA, which is one of the UK’s most influential think tanks, promotes free-market economics and has campaigned for a hard Brexit since the 2016 referendum.

But the meetings sparked criticism from the Labour Party, which accused the trade secretary of skirting rules designed to ensure transparency.

“It makes no sense for Liz Truss now to claim that meetings on those issues had nothing to do with her ministerial role, and suggests instead that she has something to hide, whether in terms of who attended the meetings or what specifically was discussed,” a spokesman for shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry told Reuters.

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The IEA said it regularly hosted events and meetings with ministers, but did not provide details of the discussions with Truss.

“By definition, the private events we run do not involve the minuting or publication of the full, frank and free exchange of views which we try to ensure takes place,” a spokesperson said.

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