The UK would face a decade of massive economic uncertainty with potentially disastrous consequences for business and the pound if it were to vote to leave the EU, the Europe minister says.
The dramatic warning from David Lidington, a key figure in David Cameron’s renegotiation of EU membership, is part of a frontal assault launched by Downing Street and the Foreign Office aimed at discrediting the campaign for Brexit, now headed by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
In an interview with the Observer, Lidington, who has served a record period of six years in his post and has more experience of EU negotiations than most in the cabinet, says the UK would be thrust into economic “limbo” for up to 10 years if the UK were to leave, as it tried to disengage from the EU on favourable terms and then establish a set of highly complex replacement trade deals across the world.
The intervention came as finance ministers of the G20 group of leading industrial nations meeting in China listed “a shock of a potential UK exit from the European Union” as one of the biggest risks to the world economy this year.
David Cameron said: “With so many gaps in the ‘out’ case, the decision is clearly one between the great unknown and a greater Britain.” Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said Brexit would create “huge amounts of uncertainty” and added: “It would be our children’s futures on the table if we were to roll the dice.”
Echoing a view shared by the prime minister and George Osborne, Lidington said that, according to the EU rulebook, the UK would be cut adrift from European treaties, and therefore the single market, two years after a vote to leave – before it would have had time to negotiate replacement trade deals.
“Trade deals between the EU and other countries and bilateral trade deals of any type normally take six, seven, eight years and counting,” Lidington said. “Everything we take for granted about access to the single market – trade taking place without customs checks or paperwork at national frontiers, the right of British citizens to go and live in Spain or France – those would all be up in the air. It is massive. It is massive what is at risk.
“You would be in complete limbo and I think what that would do for the pound and for business confidence would be very serious indeed. It could last a decade.”
Boris Johnson performed a sudden U-turn over Brexit, ruling out the possibility of a second referendum after a Leave vote – something he, Gove and other Outers, including former Tory leader Michael Howard, have recently suggested would be possible.
Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd © 2016