The full statement from the British Chamber of Commerce on John Longworth tonight:
“The British Chambers of Commerce is a non-partisan organisation, and as such, decided not to campaign for either side ahead of the European referendum on 23rd June 2016. Its neutrality in the referendum debate reflects the real divisions that exist in business communities across the UK.
“John Longworth and the BCC Board recognise that John’s personal view on the referendum is likely to create confusion regarding the BCC’s neutral stance going forward. In light of this, John has taken the decision to step down as Director-General and his resignation has been accepted by the Board with effect from 6 March 2016.
“No politician or interest group had any influence on the BCC Board decision to suspend Mr Longworth. His subsequent resignation was agreed mutually between Mr Longworth and the BCC Board, and there were no external factors involved. The only views taken into account were those of the BCC Board and the BCC’s owners, the UK accredited Chamber Network.
Curious they felt the need to stress “no politician or interest group had any influence” on his suspension. Downing Street deny applying pressure.
The BCC say he has gone because it isn’t appropriate for their boss to be airing personal political views on Europe. They didn’t have a view when he did so in 2014.
“It would be crazy to think if the UK exited the European Union it could not negotiate new trade deals with EU members,” he said. “EU countries sell more to the UK than we sell to them. Last year the UK was Germany’s biggest export market, larger than the US, larger than China. The thing is, whatever happens to the UK, it’s highly unlikely that these countries would erect trade barriers because it would damage them more than us.”
For holding this view, Longworth has now been forced out…