SENDAI, JAPAN (AFP) - British finance minister George Osborne warned on Saturday (May 21) that the UK would find it "extremely difficult" to conclude trade deals with European Union countries if it quit the bloc.
Speaking to the BBC at a meeting of G7 finance ministers in Sendai, Japan, Osborne said it would be tough to strike those deals while also trying to reach new trade agreements with non-EU countries.
"It's absolutely clear if you speak to the finance ministers here from France, Germany and other European countries that if Britain left the EU, and wanted access to the single market, the access that we need for jobs and investment at home, then we would need to pay into the EU budget and we'd have to accept free movement of people but we'd have no say over those policies at all," Osborne said.
Britain will decide in a referendum on June 23 whether to stay in the EU or leave the 28-country bloc.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne, like Prime Minister David Cameron, is campaigning for Britain to stay in.
"If we left the EU we would have a two year period to negotiate our exit with 27 other countries, we'd then have to negotiate new arrangements with those 27 other European countries and at the same time conclude over 50 trade deals with countries that aren't even in Europe," he said.
"That would be extremely difficult to do."
During that period, businesses would have "no certainty" about the future and so would not take on new workers or invest, he said.
"It hits people's incomes, it hits the value of houses, it hits businesses and jobs. People are beginning to understand that," said Osborne.
With just over a month to the vote, the "Remain" camp is on 55 per cent and the "Leave" campaign on 45 per cent, according to the What UK Thinks website's average of the last six opinion polls.
On a visit to London last month, US President Barack Obama said Britain being in the EU magnified its global influence, and outside the bloc it would go to the "back of the queue" when it came to signing trade deals.
And Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned earlier this month that Britain would become "less attractive" for Japanese investment outside the EU.
And last week International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned that quitting the EU would be "pretty bad to very, very bad" for the British economy.
The Treasury in London released analysis Friday showing that by 2018, house prices in Britain would fall by at least 10 per cent and up to 18 per cent compared to what is expected if the UK remains in the EU, due to heightened uncertainty in the financial markets.
The average house price in England and Wales was £189,901 (S$380,439) in March, up 6.7 per cent over the previous 12 months. In London it was £534,785.