Boris Johnson has condemned one of the UK’s biggest business groups for suspending its director-general after he suggested Britain would be better outside the European Union.
The London mayor claimed British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) leader John Longworth had become the latest victim of “Project Fear” - a term used by Brexit campaigners to describe the tactics used by David Cameron and the Remain campaigners.
Mr Longworth was suspended after he said the UK could have a “brighter economic future” outside the EU at the BCC’s annual conference on Thursday.
The BCC then held an emergency meeting and he was suspended for violating the BCC’s strict neutrality policy.
But Mr Johnson - who officially announced his support for the Out campaign two weeks ago - said the BCC’s decision was “scandalous”.
He said: “When someone has the guts to dissent from the establishment line, he or she is immediately crushed by the agents of Project Fear.
What has the EU ever done for us?
What has the EU ever done for us?
1/7 1. It gives you freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe
As a member of the EU, UK citizens benefit from freedom of movement across the continent. Considered one of the so-called four pillars of the European Union, this freedom allows all EU citizens to live, work and travel in other member states.
2/7 2. It sustains millions of jobs
A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, released in October 2015, suggested 3.1 million British jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU.
3/7 3. Your holiday is much easier - and safer
Freedom to travel is one of the most exercised benefits of EU membership, with Britons having made 31 million visits to the EU in 2014 alone. But a lot of the benefits of being an EU citizen are either taken for granted or go unnoticed.
4/7 4. It means you're less likely to get ripped off
Consumer protection is a key benefit of the EU’s single market, and ensures members of the British public receive equal consumer rights when shopping anywhere in Europe.
5/7 5. It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber-crime
Another example of a lesser-known advantage of EU membership is the benefit of cross-country coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime.
6/7 6. Our businesses depend on it
According to 71% of all members of the Confederation of British Influence (CBI), and 67 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the EU has had an overall positive impact on their business.
7/7 7. We have greater influence
Robin Niblett, Director of think-tank Chatham House, stated in a report published last year: “For a mid-sized country like the UK, which will never again be economically dominant either globally or regionally, and whose diplomatic and military resources are declining in relative terms, being a major player in a strong regional institution can offer a critical lever for international influence.
“His verdict reflects the reality - that the EU has changed out of all recognition from the Common Market that this country joined.
“He speaks for the many small and medium sized businesses - the lifeblood of the economy - who cannot understand why they should comply with more and more regulation, over which this country has no democratic control."
He said only five per cent of UK firms do business with the rest of the EU but they must obey 100 per cent of its legislation and called for a “proper debate” so the British public could have “the facts put before them”.
Additional reporting by PAReuse content