The director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) John Longworth has been temporarily suspended due to his reported views that the UK's long-term future would be "brighter" outside the EU. His comment to the organisation's annual conference effectively stated the organisation was backing the Brexit movement that is calling for UK citizens to vote "out" in the EU membership referendum.
The BCC has up until now taken a neutral standpoint and insisted that it will not campaign for either side before the 23 June referendum, reflecting its membership's split viewpoints. The organisation has refused to comment on Longworth's suspension, but it has been reported he was ostracised for breaching the organisation's official position of neutrality on such matters.
"With the reforms that we have received so far, the UK would be better off taking a decision to leave the European Union," he clarified to Sky News. The broadcaster reported that the BCC's president, Nora Senior, instigated the suspension and members have now been informed that Longworth has been temporarily suspended due to his position on the matter.
A survey recently conducted by the BCC involving 2,000 of its members found that 60% would vote to stay in the EU, while only 30% would vote to exit in a referendum, with 10% remaining undecided
In an official statement, the BCC said: "The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) will not be campaigning for either side ahead of the EU referendum. The BCC will survey member companies across the UK, report their diverse views, and inform the debate."The BCC's director general has been very clear where his remarks reflect his personal assessment, rather than the position of the BCC."
The BCC is the national body of 52 accredited chambers of commerce across the UK, and includes 92,000 businesses. It currently represents an estimated five million employees.