The top business group leader who quit over the weekend to campaign for a Brexit — a British exit from Europe — says the government is being “highly irresponsible” by fearmongering in the debate.
John Longworth quit as head of the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) on Sunday after coming out in support of a Brexit in the upcoming referendum on Britain’s membership of Europe. The BCC is officially remaining neutral and Longworth felt his position clashed with this.
In an interview with The Telegraph on Monday, his first since resigning, Longworth criticises the government’s campaigning so far for the referendum, saying it is “peddling hyperbole” to “scare” voters into remaining in Europe.
The government has to be responsible. And the fact of the matter is that there is a chance that the country will vote to leave.
If the government keeps peddling the line that it will be a disaster if we leave, which it actually won’t be, they are going to put the country in a position where it will be damaged if we do.
It may work that by scaring people that we don’t leave and they will succeed. But if we do leave, that will be very irresponsible of the government.
Longworth says that if Brits do vote to leave the European Union on June 23, then stock markets and the pound could collapse as the government and other pro-European groups have been warning.
But, Longworth said, it will be the government’s fault for shouting so much about these dangers and scaring investors, not because of any underlying issues. The pound has already taking a severe battering from traders after the date of the referendum was announced.
Pro-Brexit campaigners have dubbed their rival campaign “Project Fear”, arguing that the bulk of the pro-EU argument is simply fearmongering about what would happen if Britain were to leave. (It should be said, however, that Brexit campaigners are doing their fair share of fearmongering too, with Justice Secretary Michael Gove claiming in an interview with the Sunday Times that the EU fuels fascism.)
Anti-European MPs and campaigners accused pro-EU forces in the government of forcing out Longworth from his role at the BCC but Longworth insists in the interview that this was not the case.
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