The countdown for the British referendum over EU membership entered its final month Monday with it result anything but a foregone conclusion.
In exactly a month, on June 23, millions of people in Britain will have to decide whether to stay or leave the European Union after 45 years of membership of one of the world’s biggest trading blocs.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne raised the stakes with a joint statement of potential gloom and doom if Britain quits, based on an analysis published Monday by the British Treasury.
It would be, for the first time in British history, a recession “brought on ourselves, a do-it-yourself recession,” said Cameron and Osborne.
The two leaders said: “The analysis produced by the Treasury shows that a vote to leave will push our economy into a recession that would knock 3.6 percent off GDP and, over two years, put hundreds of thousands of people out of work right across the country.”
In a more severe shock scenario, Treasury economists estimated that the British economy could be hit by 6 percent, there would be a deeper recession and unemployment would rise by even more.
“Sterling is projected to fall by 12 percent, consistent with a range of studies, and could fall by 15 percent in the event of a more severe shock,” the statement said.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith from the Leave Campaign denounced the gloomy warnings, saying people would not believe the Treasury report which he said gave a deeply biased view of the future and ignored all the upsides of a vote to leave Europe.
The Treasury forecasts will fuel a more intensive, and bitter race for the finishing line as both sides argue over what is best for Britain.
The Leave campaign continue to warn of the impact mass immigration into Britain from poorer EU members, particularly if Turkey is allowed to join.
Meanwhile latest polls still show it could be a close call, but overall it seems the Remain corner is slightly ahead in the race.
A poll of polls indicates those aged 65 and over are more likely to vote leave by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin, while 72 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds want to remain in the EU.
When it comes to polls of men and women, both groups are equally divided with both indicating a Remain vote by a small margin.
On ethnicity, white Britons by a small margin indicate a leave preference, while 68 percent of ethnic minority groups want to stay in Europe.
Politics expert Professor John Curtice from Strathclyde University in Scotland said the picture painted by opinion polls is of a country deeply divided over the issue.
Author: Larry Neild