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German Finance Minister Schäuble warns Brexit would be economic 'poison'

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said a British exit from the European Union would prove an economic catastrophe for all concerned. Recent polls suggest the result of the June referendum could be very close.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Sunday that a vote for Britain to leave the EU would create an economically toxic level of uncertainty, on both a local and global level.

The minister said Britain's European partners would be "sad," should British voters decide to leave the bloc in a referendum slated for June 23. He stressed that the aftermath would prove particularly difficult from an economic perspective.

"Let's say the referendum was to go that way. We would have years of the most difficult negotiations, which would be very difficult for the EU as well," the minister told the BBC.

"For years, we would have such insecurity that would be a poison to the economy in the UK, in continental Europe and the global economy as well," he added.

Schäuble successfully skirted a question about whether the remaining EU partners would be "angry, vengeful and vindictive" with the UK, in the event of a vote to leave.

"You have a setback and still you try and go on, and we will certainly do so in Germany, but I do believe it is better to avoid such catastrophes, rather than try to think how to get well again after the catastrophe," he said.

Weaker and worse off?

British Prime Minister David Cameron - whose own Conservative Party is

bitterly split by the issue

- on Wednesday called on those campaigning for Britain to leave the EU to give their own detailed projection of the expected economic impact. A government analysis showed that Britain would be "weaker, less safe and worse off."

"Leave campaigners must now set out what their detailed plan for Britain outside the EU is - and its impact on the economy and prices," said Cameron.

A report by British civil servants last week showed that the complex process of agreeing to terms to leave the bloc would touch off a decade of uncertainty, while the

G20 has warned that a Brexit would damage the global economy

.

One possible outcome of a Brexit could be a slump in the value of sterling. Swiss bank UBS has calculated that the currency could fall to near parity with the euro.

The latest opinion polls suggest the result of the referendum could be very close. A collection of surveys published by market research firm YouGov on Saturday showed that the "In" camp has had four consecutive leads since February 25. The group had 40 percent support, compared with 37 percent for those wanting Britain to leave. All four of YouGov's previous polls had put the "Out" camp ahead.

Watch video 02:00

Political acrimony grows over UK referendum

rc/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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