Businesses ‘very disappointed’ with both sides in EU referendum campaign, says BCC chief Adam Marshall

Adam Marshall of British Chambers of Commerce.

Adam Marshall of British Chambers of Commerce. - Credit: Archant

Britain’s businesses are “very disappointed” at how both sides in the EU referendum debate have conducted their campaigns, the acting leader of the UK’s chamber of commerce movement said during a visit to Suffolk.

And, regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s vote, it will be vital for politicians to then set aside their differences and focus on the nation’s needs, so that key decisions already put off as a result of the campaign are not delayed any further.

Adam Marshall, who has been acting director-general of British Chambers of Commerce since the resignation of John Longworth earlier this year, was speaking at the annual general meeting of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, held at Wherstead Park, near Ipswich.

Alluding to the departure of Mr Longworth – after he expressed his personal support for Brexit, despite the BCC’s stance being officially neutral – Dr Marshall said: “The referendum is, in a sense, the reason I am standing here today as acting director general. You will be happy to know I will not be expressing a personal opinion.”

Dr Marshall said that, despite the business community often being portrayed as monolithic, it was in reality hugely diverse, as reflected in differences in opinion on the EU referendum issue. However, one theme was common to both sides of the debate.

“Businesses are very disappointed at how the campaigns have been run, both Remain and Leave,” he said. “We are disappointed they have not given us more solid information on which to proceed.”

There was also “intense frustration” among businesses that, as a result of politicians focusing on the referendum, many big decisions in areas such as infrastructure – not least airport capacity – and housing had been put off.

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“All these things are in the gift of Westminster and these things need to happen regardless of what happens in the referendum,“ he said.

In the event of a Leave vote, the Government would need to focus on stability and confidence while if the vote was for Remain, there would still be issues to address in terms of how the EU and the single market worked for businesses, said Dr Marshall.

Regardless of the outcome, however, it was important for the main parties to avoid a “political inquest” as a result of internal divisions over the referendum, as this would be a further distraction from the important decisions which needed to be made and result in businesses “being kicked twice”. Rather than wrangling between themselves, politicians should focus on the national interest, he added.