The Latest: Ex-London mayor, successor debate leaving EU

AP News
Posted: Jun 21, 2016 6:43 PM
The Latest: Ex-London mayor, successor debate leaving EU

LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Britain's referendum on staying or leaving the European Union (all times local):

10:35 p.m.

The intense debate over Britain's future in or out of the European Union has moved to Wembley Arena for a televised confrontation between leading lights of the "remain" and "leave" campaigns just two days before Thursday's national referendum.

Before a loud and raucous crowd of some 6,000 people, and a large BBC audience Tuesday night, former London Mayor Boris Johnson went on the attack, downplaying suggestions that breaking away from the 28-nation EU bloc would mean trade tariffs for British exports.

He said the UK is such a significant consumer of goods made in Europe that European countries would not erect trade barriers that would make products more expensive.

"Do you seriously suppose that they are going to be so insane as to allow tariffs to be imposed between Britain and Germany?" he said, asserting that Britain imports about one-fifth of Germany's total car production.

His successor, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, hit back, saying that all experts agree that Britain is "stronger, safer and better off in Europe." He added that the "leave" campaign's stance on immigration had become "Project Hate."

ag Thursday's nationwide referendum.

He said all experts agree that Britain is "stronger, safer and better off in Europe."


7:15 p.m.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says the British people would be committing an act of "self-harm" if they vote to leave the European Union.

Juncker, in Greece to speak at a business conference, described Thursday's vote as the "biggest decision in a generation" for Britain.

He argued that European nations are stronger and more prosperous and secure together.

He added: "All too often we take for granted what we have built — peace among countries that knew only war, freedom that is guaranteed by the rule of law, prosperity that is built on the planet's biggest internal market, and a way of life that is the envy of the entire world."

He said that the British people were key to creating all of this, and that "leaving the European Union would put all this at risk."


6:15 p.m.

Money changing service TransferWise says it will be imposing restrictions on transfers involving British pounds from Wednesday until Friday, saying that "exchange rates are likely to be volatile" in the run-up to Thursday's vote on EU membership.

The London-based group added in an email to customers that some transfers "may take longer due to additional trading limits or possible delays in the U.K. banking system on Thursday or Friday."

The company said restrictions would be lifted once the referendum results are known.


4:30 p.m.

Romania's president says he is optimistic Britain will vote to remain in the European Union in a referendum this week.

President Klaus Iohannis said, "we are counting the hours" until Thursday's referendum and that he is hopeful because of opinion polls showing a slight lead for the side seeking to remain in the EU.

"The European Union is stronger with Great Britain and Great Britain needs the European Union," Iohannis said.


3:25 p.m.

The chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve says that the upcoming vote in Britain over leaving the European Union "could have significant economic repercussions."

In delivering a twice-a-year economic report to Congress on Tuesday, Janet Yellen highlighted Thursday's British vote as a key source of uncertainty that would require the central bank to proceed cautiously as it looks to lift interest rates to more normal levels.

The Fed had until recently been expected to raise rates again in June, following a first hike in December since before the global financial crisis, but held off amid weaker economic data and concern over the British vote.

Some private economists believe the central bank might raise rates at its next meeting on July 26-27 — if markets are not roiled by Britain's vote.


3:15 p.m.

The head of the European Central Bank says it "is ready for all contingencies following the U.K.'s EU referendum."

Britain will vote Thursday on whether to leave the European Union. Many economists say that a decision to leave would cause turmoil in stocks and currency markets. Uncertainty could weigh on the economies of the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.

In a testimony to the parliament of the EU, Mario Draghi said Tuesday that the ECB is "ready to act by using all the instruments available within our mandate."

The ECB sets monetary policy for the 19 EU countries that use the euro. The U.K. does not use the euro but as an EU member has strong trade ties with the rest of the bloc.


2:55 p.m.

France's president says he hopes Britons will cast a vote of confidence in Europe in their referendum this week — but if not, the EU "will draw the necessary conclusions."

Francois Hollande did not elaborate on what the EU might do in response to a British vote to quit the union, though EU leaders want to ensure than an eventual "leave" vote does not embolden other critics in other European countries.

Hollande spoke Tuesday after meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, noting that it's hard for countries like Ukraine, which aspires to EU membership, to understand that long-standing EU members like Britain "could have doubts about their commitment to Europe."

"The United Kingdom is in Europe, the United Kingdom is part of Europe, the United Kingdom represents Europe's values. That's why we hope this vote" shows confidence in Europe's future, Hollande said.


2:40 p.m.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says the European Union needs a change of course — even if Britain remains in the EU after Thursday's vote.

Schaeuble said Tuesday in Berlin that even if a majority in Britain votes to stay, the EU cannot go on like before.

The German news agency dpa quoted Schaeuble as saying that "otherwise the people will say: you did not understand anything."

Schaeuble said a strong Europe that's capable of acting is necessary, but that "Europe is not in good shape."

The finance minister also pointed out that currently the number of people in EU member states who have doubts about the "EU project" is growing — not only on the fringes of the far right, but also on the left.


1:45 p.m.

Prime Minister David Cameron has appealed directly to older Britons considering voting to leave the European Union, saying "think about the hopes and dreams of your children and grandchildren."

Two days before a referendum on EU membership, Cameron appealed directly to older voters who are the most Euroskeptic segment of the population.

Speaking outside 10 Downing St., he said leaving the bloc would risk the country's economic security — and younger generations would have to live with the consequences.

He said, "they can't undo the decision we take. If we vote out, that's it. It's irreversible."


12:35 p.m.

Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham has registered her view that Britain should remain in the European Union, posting a "IN" image on her Instagram page.

The former singer turned fashion designer's view on the referendum was made known after her husband, former soccer star David Beckham, issued a statement saying he was backing the "remain" campaign in the referendum on Thursday.

Leave.EU had suggested that Victoria Beckham was a Euroskeptic, based on an interview with the Spectator in 1996 in which she was quoted as deriding Brussels bureaucrats and saying that "We must keep our national individuality."

Leave.EU says that "she was absolutely clear. We quoted her in her own words," adding that it seemed on this issue she could "Bend it like Beckham" — a reference to the movie of the same name.


12:10 p.m.

Bosnia's president says a possible Brexit vote is sending a "somewhat depressing message" to those aspiring to EU membership, but says his country is not discouraged.

Bakir Izetbegovic told The Associated Press on Tuesday the European Union will remain an inspiration to countries like Bosnia which is undergoing painful reforms to join the bloc as a guarantee of the nation's prosperity.

He says Brits will make a mistake if they leave the "best governed territory in the world," so desirable that people fleeing conflicts first want to go there.


11:20 a.m.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson has criticized a poster showing a column of non-white migrants trying to enter the European Union, a view that underscores a deepening rift between campaigners promoting Britain's exit from the 28-nation bloc.

Johnson, one of the most prominent campaigners on the "leave" side, distanced himself from U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, whose "Breaking Point" poster has been widely criticized.

Britain's anti-EU campaigners have long been bitterly divided. Johnson's Vote Leave won Electoral Commission approval to be the official standard-bearer of the campaign. Farage, a member of the European Parliament, has fought on nonetheless.

Johnson told LBC radio the poster had "xenophobic undertones" and says "my campaign is based on fairness."


11:15 a.m.

In the southern Romanian town of Caracal, residents want Britain to stay in the European Union. Many moved to work there after Romania joined the EU in 2007.

Cars with British registration plates are parked on the streets of the poor town of 32,000, while other vehicles have the right-hand drive like British cars, bearing Bulgarian plates, where it is cheaper to register cars than elsewhere in Europe.

Stelica Ciocan, 41, who sells toys, says his cousins work in construction in Britain.

He acknowledged it could be more difficult for Romanians to enter Britain if it votes to leave the EU, but predicted they would continue to travel due to the opportunities there.

He says: "Yes, it would be harder for us. But we're used to hardships. We'll keep leaving even if it's difficult. We must take risks all the time for the better things in life."


11:05 a.m.

New carbon pollution figures show the European Union may find it harder to meet its climate targets if British voters decide to leave the bloc

Data published Tuesday by the European Environment Agency show that Britain's greenhouse gas emissions fell by 34.3 percent in 1990-2014, the biggest percentage drop in the EU except for eastern countries whose emissions fell sharply when communist-era heavy industries collapsed.

If it weren't for Britain, the EU's total emissions would have dropped 22.8 percent rather than 24.4 percent during that period.

The EU has already reached its target to reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2020. In negotiations on a climate deal in Paris last year it pledged to deepen those reductions to at least 40 percent by 2030.


9:25 a.m.

Soccer star David Beckham has thrown his support behind those campaigning to keep Britain in the European Union, describing Europe as a team that needs to play together to succeed. The 40-year-old issued a statement Tuesday saying: "We live in a vibrant and connected world where together as a people we are strong. For our children and their children, we should be facing the problems of the world together and not alone."


9:10 a.m.

Billionaire currency trader George Soros has warned that a vote for Britain to leave European Union will trigger a plunge in the pound — without benefits that can come with a devalued currency.

In an op-ed piece in Tuesday's Guardian, Soros says a decision to leave the 28-nation bloc in Thursday's vote will cause sterling to drop quickly. Soros predicted the drop will be more dramatic than when Britain crashed out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in September 1992.

Soros substantially profited — at the expense of the Bank of England and the British government — when the pound lost 15 percent of its value.

Soros says those who believe a "leave" vote will have no impact on their personal finances are guilty of "wishful thinking."