Outrage over Director General's sacking
Chambers boss Longworth quits over EU views
The BCC issued a statement tonight saying that the director general would “step down” because his “personal view” – which he expressed on Thursday – was “likely to create confusion” over the organisation’s neutral stance.
He was suspended on Friday after he said: “With the reforms we have received so far, the UK would be better off taking a decision to leave the European Union.”
Tonight there was an immediate backlash from business leaders that the director general had been pushed out of his job because of his views.
David Buick, a City commentator with Panmure Gordon, tweeted: “How very sad that BCC’S John Longworth has been forced to resign because of his personal convictions over EU Referendum.”
In a statement, the BCC’s Scotland-based president Nora Senior said:
“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.
“All representatives of the BCC have the right to personal and political views on the key issues of the day. However, they are not expected to articulate these views while acting in their professional capacity, as their views could be misconstrued as representing the position of the organisation as a whole.
“The BCC will continue to use its position to reflect the varied views of the business communities it serves, articulate their concerns, and seek greater clarity and information from both sides.
“The Board would like to thank John for his significant contribution to the development of the BCC, and wish him well for the future.
“Adam Marshall will be carrying out the Director-General role on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is appointed. Please direct enquiries to Allan Williams in the first instance”