British companies are stuck between the "devil and the deep blue sea" when it comes to the EU referendum, according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). The business body is not taking a side ahead of the 23 June ballot, but warned the decision will be "undoubtedly tough" for the electorate.

John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said: "The people of our country now face a choice, between staying in what is essentially an unreformed EU, with the Eurozone moving off in another direction and with Britain sitting on the margins, or leaving the EU, with all the near-term uncertainty and disruption that this will cause."

He added: "Undoubtedly a tough choice. You might say, a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. Business leaders are, of course, by and large driven by economically rational decision making.

"Decision making in business suffers from the pressures of the short term and is naturally focused on the interests of the particular business concerned."

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The remarks from Longworth on the EU will be part of his keynote speech at the BCC's annual conference in London on 3 March. Business Secretary Sajid Javid and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are also expected to address the Westminster audience at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

The speeches will come after it emerged that Rolls-Royce Motor Cars boss had warned staff of a Brexit. The letter from chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvo was leaked to The Guardian.

"Tariff barriers would mean higher costs and higher prices and we cannot assume that the UK would be granted free trade with Europe from outside the EU," the document read.

"Our employment base could also be affected, with skilled men and women from most EU countries included in the 30 nationalities currently represented at the home of Rolls-Royce here at Goodwood."

Rolls-Royce is owned by German motoring giant BMW and it has also been reported that the bosses of BMW's companies in the UK, including MINI, had sent similar letters to their staff.

BMW Group UK had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

The latest online opinion poll from ICM, of more than 2,000 people between 26 and 29 February, put Leave and Remain neck-and-neck on 41%, with 18% of respondents undecided.