British prime minister David Cameron has warned that leaving the EU would be the “self-destruct option” for Britain, as the Treasury published an analysis warning Brexit would plunge the country into a year-long recession and cost as many as 820,000 jobs.
Speaking at the B&Q headquarters in Hampshire, Mr Cameron said a Leave vote would create the world’s first “DIY recession” as the country inflicted economic harm on itself just as it was recovering from the crash of 2008.
And he said the threat to families’ financial security and the nation’s economy meant that a Remain vote was the “moral” choice in the referendum, exactly a month away on June 23.
New Treasury analysis of the short-term impact of withdrawal from the EU suggested that between 520,000 and 820,000 jobs would be lost, while house prices would fall by between 10% and 18%.
Public sector borrowing would rocket by between £24bn (€31bn) and £39bn, said the report.
However, prominent Vote Leave campaigner Iain Duncan Smith said the warning “should not be believed by anyone” as it was “not an honest assessment but a deeply biased view of the future”.
Mr Cameron said Britain was now “back on the right track” after the financial crisis, and urged voters not to put that at risk.
“As the Bank of England has said and the IMF has underlined, and the Treasury has now confirmed, the shock to our economy after leaving Europe would tip the country into recession,” he said.
“This could be, for the first time in history, a recession brought on ourselves. As I stand here in B&Q, it would be a DIY recession.”
Chancellor George Osborne urged wavering voters to consider whether they were ready to “knowingly vote for recession”.
In a rebuff to Leave campaigners who suggest some economic pain is “a price worth paying” for winning back sovereignty from Brussels, Mr Osborne said:
“It’s not your wages that will be hit, it’s not your livelihoods that will go, it’s not you who will struggle to pay the bills. It’s the working people of Britain who will pay the price if we leave the EU.”
Mr Cameron rejected the idea that a “moral” case for Brexit might trump economic concerns.
“The economic case is the moral case,” he said.
“The moral case for keeping parents in work, firms in business, the pound in health, Britain in credit, the moral case for providing economic opportunity rather than unemployment for the next generation.
“Where is the morality in putting any of that at risk for some unknown end?”
After six years of austerity, Britain now had a lower deficit, a growing economy and increasing numbers of jobs, claimed Mr Cameron.
“After all the pain, all the sacrifice by the British people, why would we want to put it at risk again?” he said.
“It would be like surviving a fall and then running straight back to the cliff-edge. It is the self-destruct option.”
Mr Cameron singled out Ukip leader Nigel Farage as he rejected the stance of Brexit campaigners who viewed the economic cost as a price worth paying for getting out of the EU.
“There are people out there who say ‘yes, there would be a hit to our economy, but it is somehow worth it for other reasons’ — I have heard Nigel Farage, for instance, say that many times,” said Mr Cameron.
“I profoundly disagree. I think, particularly because we have this special status within the EU we have a special deal in Europe and with that in mind it is certainly not worth the huge risk and downside to our economy of voting to leave.”
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