Cham­bers pledge to re­main neu­tral in the EU de­bate

Yorkshire Post - Business - - FRONT PAGE -

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.’

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