British business sounds alarm ahead of Brexit vote

22 Jun 2016


Britain's economy will suffer irreparable damage if it votes to break away from the 27-member European Union, the country's business leaders have warned, even as rival camps for and against quitting the economic bloc await the verdict  of a referendum on Brexit.

Britain, currently the world's fifth-largest economy, will see retarded growth and falling jobs if tomorrow's referendum votes for an exit from the 60-year-old bloc, a group of 1,200 of the country's top business leaders has warned.

If it happens, Britain would also become the first state to defect from the EU.

The pro EU "Remain" camp had a narrow lead of 51 per cent versus 49 per cent for the ''Leave'' camp, according to an average of polls compiled by What UK Thinks,' but the `against' camp is thinning further.

Surveys also show that more than 10 per cent of people are undecided on Brexit.

While opinion polls paint a contradictory picture of public opinion in a deeply divided nation, some published reports suggest that since MP Jo Cox's murder the `Remain' camp has gained a slight lead, though often within the margin of error. (See: British Labour MP shot dead ahead of Brexit referendum). Election experts say turnout will be crucial because of a gulf between generations, with young voters, who have a poor voting record, strongly backing to stay in the EU, while older, more regular voters tend to favour an exit.

The implied probability of a ''Remain'' vote was at 76 per cent, according to Betfair odds.

"Britain leaving the EU would mean uncertainty for our firms, less trade with Europe and fewer jobs," said the chiefs of 1,285 companies employing 1.75 million people, ranging from Virgin boss Richard Branson to media tycoon Michael Bloomberg.

"Britain remaining in the EU would mean the opposite: more certainty, more trade and more jobs. EU membership is good for business and good for British jobs," they said in a letter to The Times newspaper.

A record 46,499,537 people will decide the EU referendum tomorrow after what is officially the biggest voter registration drive in British history, the Electoral Commission said after hundreds of thousands scrambled to vote at the last minute.

So great was the strain on the system that the official registration website crashed and the deadline was extended for 48 hours.

Provisional figures show 38,956,824 people are registered for Thursday's poll in England, 3,988,492 in Scotland, 2,270,743 in Wales, 1,260,955 in Northern Ireland and 24,117 in Gibraltar.

It's nearly 150,000 more people than the previous record of 46,354,197 who signed up to vote in last year's general election.

And turnout will be key as young voters, who are more likely to be late signups, are more likely too to swing behind Remain.

Meanwhile, three more Tory MPs have joined the ''Remain'' camp, bringing their total numbers to 186 - compared to 135 voting for Brexit.

Another 13 MPs in the houses of Parliament remain undeclared after Jackie Doyle-Price, Caroline Nokes and David Tredinnick opted to stay within the EU.

Polling stations will open at 0600 GMT on Thursday, 23 June and close at 2100 GMT. The official result is due sometime after 0600 GMT on Friday but partial results and turnout figures from 382 counting centres will be announced from about 0100 GMT.

World leaders including US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the NATO and Commonwealth allies have urged Britain to remain in the EU.

Prime Minister David Cameron's personal future also hangs on the result. The EU issue has divided his Conservative Party since the days of his distant predecessor Margaret Thatcher, bringing an end to her decade in office in 1990.

A vote to leave would almost certainly cost him the top job, though he has said he will stay.

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