UK's Cameron warns leaving EU is "the self-destruct option" as vote approaches

By Reuters/William James   May 23, 2016 | 03:21 am PT
Britain's two most powerful politicians warned on Monday that a vote to leave the European Union in a month's time could push the country into a year-long recession and cost at least half a million jobs.

With Britain taking its most important strategic decision in decades on June 23, Prime Minister David Cameron and finance minister George Osborne made a fresh series of warnings of how households would be hit by a vote to leave the EU, ranging from a fall in the value of their homes to costlier foreign holidays.

"It would be a DIY recession," Cameron said, adding leaving the EU move would jeopardise the efforts made by the country to recover from economic hardship caused by the world financial crisis.

"It would be like surviving a fall and then running straight back to the cliff edge. It is the self-destruct option," he said.

Recent opinion polls have shown voters are leaning towards an "In" decision on June 23, but pollsters say the outcome remains too close to call.

Some polls have also shown the economy growing in importance as an issue for voters, something the "Out" campaign has sought to counter by stressing its message that only leaving the EU can slow high levels of migration.

A new analysis of short-term risks from the referendum published by the finance ministry on Monday said the economy could be as much as 6 percent smaller two years after a Brexit vote than if it the country decides to stay in the EU.

Osborne said Britain would lose at least half a million jobs within two years of a vote to leave the European Union and a fall in the value of the pound would push up inflation sharply.

The campaign backing a British EU exit said the Treasury had consistently produced flawed reports and the latest analysis provided nothing on the upside of leaving the bloc, nor on the potential negatives caused by a crisis in the euro zone.

"That makes this report categorically unfair and biased," said Iain Duncan Smith, a former senior minister in Cameron's Conservative government. "They cannot forecast short-term successfully, they have never managed to do it." 

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