The UK could have a “brighter” economic future outside the European Union if the country was prepared to weather the economic disruption of Brexit, a business leader has suggested.
John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said he would like to remain in a reformed EU, but the 28-member bloc had shown itself to be incapable of major change.
He told the BCC conference in London that in the June 23 EU referendum, the country faces a choice between “the devil and the deep blue sea”.
The BCC will not campaign in the referendum, “not least because the business community in the UK is divided on the issue of Europe”. Instead, it will survey member firms and report their views to “inform the debate”.
Mr Longworth said implementing the deal negotiated by the Prime Minister “depends on the goodwill of strangers”, including the European Parliament, which would only be determined once the referendum had been held, “after we have shot our bolt”.
He added that it was “still possible that the Prime Minister may pull further rabbits from the hat” but the choice in the referendum was between “staying in what is essentially an unreformed EU with the eurozone moving off in another direction and Britain sitting on the margins”, or leaving and facing “near-term uncertainty and disruption”.
He said it was a “tough choice”, adding: “You might say a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
Setting out his personal view, he said “the very best place for the UK to be is in a reformed EU” but “I have come to the conclusion that the EU is incapable of meaningful reform, at least in the foreseeable future”.