The Latest: Tusk says exit would harm UK and EU

MADRID – The Latest on the British referendum on EU membership (all times local):

2:30 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants Britain to stay in the EU.

Merkel added that “of course, that decision is up to the citizens of Great Britain.”

Britain votes on June 23 to decide whether to leave the EU or stay.

Merkel was meeting with Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico in Berlin, who said one had to remain realistic about the outcome of the British referendum.

Fico said that “if a team is trailing 0-3 in the 90th minute, I can only hardly believe that this result will be reversed and we will eventually win 4-3.”


1.35 p.m.

European Union President Donald Tusk said that Britain leaving the bloc would lead to “seven years of political limbo and uncertainty,” and leaving both the nation and the EU “distinctly weaker.”

Tusk has said he wants Britain to stay in the 28-nation bloc and said that London has an ever stronger voice in the workings of the club. So, he said, “leaving now doesn’t make any sense.”

If Britain votes to leave, it is expected to take several years before it is disentangled from all its EU commitment and renegotiates a different relationship with the bloc.

If Britain remains, Tusk promised in Helsinki on Thursday that concessions that British Prime Minister David Cameron negotiated ahead of next Thursday’s referendum would be implemented in “less than one year.”


1:20 p.m.

The minutes to the Bank of England’s last policy meeting show the rate-setters are worried about the economic and market repercussions of a British vote to leave the European Union next week.

At Thursday’s meeting, in which they left interest rates on hold, the policymakers said a vote to leave could see households defer spending and companies delay investment. Echoing previous forecasts, it said the pound would like drop significantly, which would push up inflation.

In such a case, the Bank of England would face the dilemma of whether to raise interest rates to lower inflation — but hurt the economy — or leave them low, exposing the country to a rise in prices.


1:10 p.m.

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, says British voters “would be best advised” to oppose leaving the EU.

Britain goes to the polls on June 23 to decide whether to leave the EU or stay.

Speaking in St. Petersburg, Russia, Juncker said a British withdrawal would spark “a period of major uncertainty” for both Britain and the European Union.

He added, however, that he didn’t think the EU will be “in danger of death” if Britain goes.


11:30 a.m.

Acting Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy said Thursday he hopes Britain stays in the EU but is unhappy with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s brief campaign stop in Gibraltar, which Spain claims as its territory.

Speaking on Spanish National Radio, Rajoy said his government “doesn’t like the idea that Mr. Cameron should go to Gibraltar” but insisted that what is being debated is whether Britain stays in the European union, “as I hope it does.”

Cameron is making a two-hour visit Thursday to Gibraltar to seek votes to keep Britain in the EU in the June 23 referendum. Spanish media said it is the first visit to Gibraltar by a British premier in nearly 50 years.

Spain ceded Gibraltar’s sovereignty to Britain in a 1713 treaty but has persistently sought its return ever since.