Decision time sounded by British Chambers of Commerce
4 March 2016
The ringing words of John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), during his keynote speech at the organisation's annual conference in London on the forthcoming EU referendum.
He told hundreds of delegates from affiliated Chambers, including Hampshire Chamber, that the BCC will not campaign on the historic June 23rd in-or-out vote.
Instead, the BCC will survey member companies, report their views and inform what is widely described as a once-in-a-lifetime decision by the British people.
Mr Longworth told the conference, held at the QEll Centre in Westminster, London, that we face a choice.
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."
He added: "Undoubtedly a tough choice. You might say a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea."
Stewart Dunn, Hampshire Chamber's chief executive, who led a delegation from Hampshire, said afterwards: "We need to ensure that the Chamber's 1,700 members have as much access as possible to the facts and figures so that they can make an informed decision on June 23rd. To help enable that, we will be holding a number of roundtable events in the north and the south of the county so that members can hear and discuss the facts.
"Having heard what the panels of speakers have been saying today, sifting through the mass of information, for or against remaining in the EU, is going to be hard going.
"There will be uncertainty if we stay and uncertainty if we leave - and it is uncertainty which businesses don't like because it delays investment decisions.
"Apparently, according to polls, some one-third of people are undecided - they are the ones who could well swing the vote one way or another in the run-up to the vote in 16 weeks' time."
Writing in the conference programme, Mr Longworth stated that, in the Chambers’ business community, 60% said they would vote to remain and 30% would vote to leave.
He ended: "The theme of today's conference is 'decision time' and we need to ensure that the decisions made this year place Britain in the best possible position to weather any future storms and maintain its position as one of the largest and proudest economies in the world."
Speakers included Business Minister Sajid Javid, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Chancellor George Osborne, Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's federal minister of finance and the man who negotiated the reunification of East and West Germany, Jon Moynihan OBE of Vote Leave, Dr Gerard Lyons, the chief economic advisor to the Mayor of London, Lord Stuart Rose of Monewden, chairman of Britain Stronger in Europe, Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder and chief executive of advertising giant WPP, and Ciaran Quilty from Facebook.