G7 CHIMES IN BREXIT DEBATE AS LEAVE HIGHLIGHTS IMMIGRATION REPORT

Brexit 1

LONDON (Alliance News) – The Leave campaign attempted to take back the initiative in the Brexit debate, capitalising on figures which showed net migration to the UK has soared, but was hit by another warning on the economic consequences of a vote to leave, this time from G7 leaders.

Leaders of the Group of Seven major economies, meeting in Japan, released a statement saying a Brexit would pose a “serious risk” to global growth. They warned a “UK exit from the EU would reverse the trend toward greater global trade, investment and the jobs they create and is a further serious risk to growth.”

The statement from the leaders of the UK, US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Canada echoes an earlier statement made by G7 finance ministers, along with warnings from the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development.

However, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, while attending the G7 summit, had to dismiss claims he was a “closet Brexiteer”. Former adviser Steve Hilton, in an interview with The Times, had claimed Cameron’s natural instinct would be to vote to leave the EU, and he would not advocate the remain cause if he were not leading the country.

“I have never been a closet Brexiteer. I am absolutely passionate about getting the right result, getting this reform in Europe and remaining part of it. It’s in Britain’s national interest,” Cameron said.

The further international warnings on Brexit came as the Leave campaign attempted to draw attention back to immigration, the centre of its argument to leave, following new migration figures for the UK in 2015 being published.

The Office for National Statistics estimated net migration to the UK hit 333,000 in 2015, with net migration from the EU at 184,000. The total figure is slightly lower than the record volumes reported for 2014, but the EU migration number is the joint highest on record.

The ONS said the increase was largely the result of migrations from Bulgaria and Romania.

Boris Johnson, one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, jumped on the figures, saying they translate to “adding a population the size of Oxford to the UK every year just from EU migration”. Johnson said a vote to leave the EU is the “only way to take back control of immigration”.

Analysts, however, said the headline figures provide little information on the impact of EU migration on the UK and its citizens. Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said it was unclear what impact a vote to leave would have on migration.

Johnson also took the opportunity to hit back at criticism levelled at him by Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, who said Johnson was feeding untrue information about the EU to the British public. Juncker said Johnson’s attacks on the EU were not “in line with reality” and invited him to come to Brussels to see the truth for himself.

Johnson responded during an interview with Sky News. “I’m afraid what I am saying to the British people is in line with reality, and if we vote to remain – which I sincerely hope we don’t – then they will go on with measures that will take us further into a federal European superstate,” he said.

Some controversy emerged on Johnson’s campaign, however, following report a Remain campaigner dressed in a gorilla costume was punched and pushed from a statue in Winchester during a speech the former London mayor was giving in the Hampshire city.

Leave was also given a boost by the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, which insisted British Voters need more information on how the European Council, which dictates more than half the laws which emanate from the EU, affects the daily lives of British citizens. MPs said the “complex” nature of decision making at the European Council will need to be better explained.

However, more warnings on the cost of a Brexit were tabled to undermine Leave’s case. A report from recruiter Adecco found nearly 90% of EU workers in the UK would fail to meet visa requirements and could lose their jobs if the country voted to leave.

Remain campaign Britain Stronger In Europe said the impact of Brexit and the end of EU free movement rules would be “catastrophic” for public services which rely on European workers.

Elsewhere, David Blunkett, the former home secretary, said there had been too much negative campaigning and revisited the 9/11 attacks and border agreements with France as he laid out the case for the UK to stay in the EU.

Blunkett, who was home secretary when 9/11 occurred, said the ability for European nations to work quickly aftewards had led to the European Arrest Warrant, data-sharing improvements, the use of biometrics and improved collaboration on European borders.

Former Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond said he would expect Scotland to hold another referendum on its UK membership should Britain vote to leave the EU.

Speaking during a BBC debate in Glasgow, Salmond said that if Scotland is “dragged out” of the EU “against our will”, he believes another referendum will take place and that Scots will vote for independence.

By Sam Unsted; samunsted@alliancenews.com; @SamUAtAlliance

Copyright 2016 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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