Head of British Chambers of Commerce Resigned over Brexit Issue
John Longworth, director general of British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) announced his resignation on Sunday. Previously, he was suspended for publicly showing his support of Britain to exit European Union, breaking the neutrality commitment of British Chambers of Commerce on Brexit isue.
John Longworth in BCC annual conference on Thursday in London said that the EU is "incapable of meaningful reform" and United Kingdom has a "brighter economic future" outside the EU. The Daily Telegraph quoted his remark, "In the long run we have the capacity and capability to create a bright(er) economic future outside of the EU, just as we would have done had we had the opportunity to stay in a truly reformed EU."
Mr. Longworth also said, "With the reforms that we have received so far, the UK would be better off taking a decision to leave the European Union."
Although there is no clear indication, but John Longworth was assumed to be a Eurosceptic, which explained his personal view for supporting Brexit. However, as BCC is committed to be neutral on the issue, the group held an emergency board meeting on Friday discussing Mr Longworth's comments. Following the meeting, Mr. Longworth was temporarily suspended for breaching the neutrality commitment of the Chambers.
"Chambers up and down the country are at this time carefully listening to their members' views and ensuring that we properly represent our business community in this very important and complicated issue. I don't believe that John had a mandate from the 50 or so British accredited chambers of commerce that he is supposed to represent," said Phil Smith, managing director of Business West that represent the largest chamber in the BCC.
Following the suspension, John Longworth resigned from his position. British Chambers of Commerce President Nora Senior said in statement on Sunday, as quoted by Bloomberg, "John Longworth and the BCC Board recognize that John's personal view on the referendum is likely to create confusion regarding the BCC's neutral stance going forward." BCC also announced Mr. Longworth resignation, "In light of this, John has taken the decision to step down."
Many have suspected Downing Street took part in putting pressure on the British Chambers of Commerce to suspend and force John Longworth to resign. Daily Mail reported UK Independent Party MP Douglas Carswell tweeted, "Well done Downing Street. You got your man." He then added, "This is what Project Fear looks like. Nasty people in Number 10."
John Longworth become the first prominent business leaders who supported Brexit. However since British Chambers of Commerce has committed to neutrality on the issue, the group suspended him on his controversial remark. On Sunday, Mr Longworth resigned from his position as director general of the BCC.