Sunday 16 February 2020 2:50 pm

Business group guru John Longworth plots new pro-Brexit rival to CBI

Former British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) chief John Longworth is said to be plotting the launch of a new business lobby group to take on the CBI.

Longworth left the BCC in 2016 shortly after the organisation suspended him for saying the UK’s future could be “brighter” outside the European Union.

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A new group would likely look to tap into demand for a pro-Brexit business organisation amid tensions between the government and City bodies over Brexit, the Sunday Times reported.

Any new lobby group would likely be seen as a new rival to the CBI, which has clashed with Downing Street due to its anti-Brexit stance, and could receive support from both the prime minister and his top adviser Dominic Cummings, according to the report.

Following his departure from BCC, Longworth became an MEP for the Brexit Party. However, he was expelled from Nigel Farage’s party in December for “repeatedly undermining” its election strategy.

It is thought any group founded by Longworth would want access to discussions with ministers about the terms negotiated after the transition period ends on 31 December.

Last month then business secretary Andrea Leadsom sparked anger by shelving her weekly meeting with the UK’s five largest business groups — the CBI, BCC, Institute of Directors, Make UK and Federation of Small Business — in favour of a larger monthly meeting.

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The move led to complaints among lobbyists that they were being held at arm’s length following disagreements over Brexit.

The CBI and Institute of Directors last week urged the government to focus on the needs of small businesses in the upcoming Budget, calling for a review of business rates and the apprenticeship levy as well as a boost to private sector investment.