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French economy minister issues dire warning over 'Brexit'

Thomas Samson, AFP | French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron weighed in on the Brexit debate late Sunday, warning that Britain would be “completely killed” in global trade negotiations if Britons vote to leave the EU in a June 23 referendum.

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Macron issued his warning during an interview with the BBC on Sunday night in which he also spoke of his new political movement "En Marche !", or "Forward!".

“Today, you are strong because you are part of the EU," Macron told BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show. "When you discuss your steel industry with China you are credible because you are part of the EU, not because you are just UK. You will be completely killed otherwise."

“You will never be in the situation to negotiate face to face with the Chinese because your domestic market is not relevant for the Chinese in comparison with their domestic market. EU is the first global domestic market,” Macron added.

His comments underscore one of the key arguments for the "Stay" campaign – that Britain can secure stronger trade deals by remaining part of the larger EU market, which has a population of 500 million, as opposed to going it alone and trading as a single nation of 64 million.

Lending weight to Macron's comments was the release on Monday of a 200-page British Treasury report that says the UK would be “permanently poorer” outside the European Union.

The report suggests that a Brexit would make the UK economy 6 percent smaller in 2030 than currently forecast, with the loss to individual households estimated at around £4,300 (€5,400).

Britain’s Chancellor George Osborne said the short-term effects would be a "profound economic shock and real instability", adding that it was a "complete fantasy" to expect that Britain could negotiate an advantageous trade deal with the EU if it withdrew.

Osborne said a British exit would be "the most extraordinary self-inflicted wound”.

But campaigners for an EU exit dismissed the new estimates as "worthless" and "unbelievable" given the British treasury's past record, the BBC reported.

The run-up to the vote is being watched closely across Europe and beyond because of its potential to affect global markets. For Europe, a British exit would mean the loss of its second-largest economy and one of its top two military powers.

The world's G20 top economies last week issued a statement saying that one of the greatest risks to the global economy was "the shock of a potential UK exit from the European Union".

International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde has also spoken out, calling on Britain and the EU to work to save their "long marriage".

Many in the business community have warned of the potential risks of a Brexit. Andrew Mackenzie, the boss of mining giant BHP Billiton, said Monday that an EU exit would usher in a decade of uncertainty for the UK.

“By leaving, the UK would stop being rule makers and become rule takers," said the Scottish-born Mackenzie.

"British business cannot afford a knock, and global leaders are amazed that the UK would even consider leaving."

Britons will head to the polls on June 23 to vote on whether to remain in or leave the EU. So far polls show the two camps neck and neck, while around a fifth of voters remain undecided.

The IMF last week downgraded its 2016 forecast for British economic growth by 0.3 percentage points to 1.9 percent, although it maintained its 2017 forecast at 2.2 percent growth.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP, AFP)

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