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EU referendum is a choice 'between the devil and the deep blue sea', says head of BCC

04 Mar 2016

The Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has described the forthcoming EU referendum as a choice 'between the devil and the deep blue sea' at the group’s annual conference.

In his keynote speech, John Longworth said: ‘As the BCC, we have declared that we will not campaign, but that we will survey member companies, report their views, and inform the debate.

‘Nonetheless, 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.

'Undoubtedly a tough choice. You might say, a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.'

However, in contrast to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which has argued for remaining in the EU, Mr Longworth made upbeat remarks about the prospects for UK businesses and the economy in the event of Brexit.

He said: ‘The dynamism and resilience of the City of London and the UK business sector suggests to me that, in the long run, we have the capacity and capability to create a bright, if not brighter, economic future outside of the EU - just as we would have done had we had the opportunity to stay in a truly reformed Europe’.

Mr Longworth also used his speech to criticise tax avoidance by multinational corporations: ‘Let me be crystal clear: all multinational businesses with operations in Britain have an obligation to pay the full tax due on profits from their activities in this country. It is in their inherent self-interest to recognise – and quickly – that they only prosper with the consent of the societies in which they operate.

‘Large-scale tax avoidance by multinational businesses generates huge anger among other businesses, and is seen as unfair competition that undermines the implicit contract between business and society – and of Britain as an open, free market.’

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