Tom Herbert spoke to former British Chamber chief John Longworth about Brexit, free trade and the Eurovision Song Contest.
John Longworth hit the headlines earlier this year after resigning as director general of the British Chamber of Commerce, citing the need to “express my owns views fully” after the body suspended him for speaking out in favour of leaving the EU.
This article originally appeared on BusinessZone's sister site AccountingWEB.
His supporters argued that the government pressurised the BCC to take disciplinary action, while Longworth himself accused David Cameron of “highly irresponsible” behaviour in his attempts to “scare” voters into remaining in Europe.
Longworth has recently taken up a position as chair of the Vote Leave campaign’s business council, and when AccountingWEB caught up with him on the phone as he dashed from speaking engagement to speaking engagement, we found him in defiant mood.
Despite many opinion polls and bookmakers putting ‘remain’ ahead, Longworth is still “pretty confident” that the leave campaign can turn things around, and is happy with the work that’s going on, “particularly outside the M25”.
“When the business community get the facts they change their mind”, he added, stating that business owners are coming to realise that the “disaster propaganda that the government’s been peddling” is wrong.
Borrowing a trick from Jeremy Corbyn, we crowdsourced our questions from AccountingWEB readers and put them to Longworth.
When the business community get the facts they change their mind. Business owners are coming to realise that the disaster propaganda that the government’s been peddling is wrong.
First up was a query from runningmate, who asked what Longworth considers to be the key economic risks of staying in the EU?
“If we stay in the European Union, clearly we won’t be taking back control”, said Longworth. “On the contrary, the future in the EU is very uncertain and very risky.”
He went on to cite former governor of the Bank of England Lord King’s assertion that the EU is “likely to explode” and when it does the UK will have no independence to be able to mitigate this.
Next accountantcole asked what sort of deal Longworth thought the UK can realistically get from the EU as a non-member, as other "club" members are unlikely to sign off on a better deal than they have as members.
In answer to this Longworth stated that governments “just get in the way” of trade.
“The vast majority of trade in the world takes place without any free trade arrangements other than the World Trade Organisation,” he said. “There’s a fallacy around the whole business of a need for a trade deal, and the single market, which is the biggest fallacy of all, provides marginal benefit for the UK.”
And, as for Tim Vane’s question about who he voted for in the Eurovision Song Contest, unfortunately, he didn’t watch it.
You can listen to the full interview, including questions from several other readers, below.