Chambers pledge to remain neutral in the EU debate
THE REGION’S Chambers of Commerce remain on the fence when it comes to Britain’s future in the European Union.
All five of the region’s Chamber’s said they would not be campaigning either way for the UK to leave or stay in the EU.
This comes after parent organisation British Chambers of Commerce ( BCC) suspended its director general John Longworth over his comments on the EU. Mr Longworth has subsequently resigned from the post.
Andrew Denniff, chief executive of the Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, told
The Yorkshire Post that Mr Longworth’s position became “untenable” after he used a BCC platform to divulge his own personal opinion. Before making the remarks that led to his resignation Mr Longworth had stressed that the BCC would remain neutral in the debate, said Mr Denniff.
He added: “Then I heard the interview that he did later that day. I think it was in the foyer of the conference centre against a backdrop of BCC banners.
“I was open- mouthed in amazement he’d actually contradicted himself by putting his own personal view forward in effect on behalf of the British Chambers of Commerce.
“I’m sure when he thinks about it he’s probably a bit disappointed by how that came out.”
Barnsley and Rotherham, along with Sheffield, Hull and Humber, Leeds and Mid Yorkshire Chambers of Commerce all said they would remain neutral.
Steven Leigh, head of policy at the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We’re not taking a position on Europe. We will facilitate debates and have plans to do that in the not- too- distant future. We’ll do polls. We’ll hear the views from either side but we won’t be coming down on either side and certainly until such time as the BCC says we are.”
A spokesman for Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce said: “It’s for members to decide. Our position is the same as the declared position of BCC – that we’re not campaigning either way.”
The referendum will be discussed at a forthcoming Hull and Humber Chamber meeting this week.
Mr Leigh said UK’s membership of the EU was “a big decision”.
He added: “It’s hugely significant for the whole nation and it could be for generations to come and the British people are entitled to be furnished with hard facts and reliable information so that voters will be able to make a logical and informed decision.”
Sheffield Chamber of Commerce said that many businesses were being overwhelmed by the politics and were left confused as a result.
Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: “Staying in or leaving the EU is a complex question that is often confused with emotional issues like welfare and migration.
“For business it needs to be a hard- nosed economic assessment.
“The Chamber has not taken a position yet because our consultation clearly shows that what is important to one business is less to another.
“What is also very clear is that many businesses are confused because they feel overwhelmed by the politics and counter arguments and, basically, don’t know whether to believe them.”
Mr Wright added that executives of local Chambers and The British Chambers held a “privileged position as representatives” and therefore it was critical that they remained neutral on a number of issues including politics and Europe.
He added: “Unfortunately, to do the job properly, we need to keep our personal opinions on these types of things to ourselves which is probably why John was right to resign, but I respect him for doing so.”
ANDREW DENNIFF: ‘ I was open- mouthed in amazement he’d actually contradicted himself.’