UK's Osborne warns voters of Brexit's permanent economic damage

Mon Apr 18, 2016 1:11pm EDT
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By William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) - British finance minister George Osborne told voters that leaving the European Union would do permanent damage to the country's economy, costing them thousands of pounds a year and sapping funding for public services.

In a move immediately challenged by anti-EU campaigners, Osborne pointed to Treasury figures which said breaking away could cost each household 4,300 pounds ($6,100) a year by 2030.

Three days after official campaigning began for the EU membership referendum on June 23, Osborne said all alternatives to staying in the union would leave Britain's economy smaller than would be if it stayed in the world's biggest trading bloc.

Leading institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, and economists have also warned about the short-term economic harm a so-called Brexit could cause. But they have been more reticent about the longer-term effect.

"Britain would be permanently poorer if it left the European Union. Under any alternative, we'd trade less, do less business and receive less investment," Osborne said as he homed in on what a Brexit could mean for voters and their living standards.

"The price would be paid by British families. Wages would be lower and prices would be higher," he said in a speech at a research center specializing in composites for the aerospace industry, which has deep ties with other EU countries.

A poll last week showed just how sensitive voters are to what a Brexit meant for their own finances. Pollster YouGov said respondents who were evenly split shifted to 45-36 percent in favor of staying in the EU if they were told that the cost of a Brexit for them would be 100 pounds a year.

Most opinion polls show the rival campaigns running neck and neck, although one published on Monday showed the "In" campaign had kept a seven percentage-point lead.   Continued...

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne speaks at an event at the National Composites Centre at the Bristol and Bath Science Park, in Bristol, Britain,  April 18, 2016.  REUTERS/Matt Cardy/Pool