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UK could have ‘brighter’ future outside EU – eventually – says BCC leader John Longworth

17:13 03 March 2016

John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce.

John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce.

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 yesterday that in the June 23 EU referendum, the country faced 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”, said Mr Longworth. 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”.

Mr Longworth 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”.

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Undated handout photo issued by John Lewis of Paula Nickolds who has been appointed as their new managing director, becoming the first woman in the role in the department store chain's 152-year history. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday October 25, 2016. Ms Nickolds has been promoted from her current role as commercial director and replaces long-serving boss Andy Street, who stepped down after joining the West Midlands mayoral race on a Conservative Party ticket. See PA story CITY JohnLewis. Photo credit should read: Greg Funnell/PA Wire

NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

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