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Brexit would jeopardize UK's global influence, executives say

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Britain risks losing its influence on the global stage if it votes to leave the European Union in June, business leaders warned.

[LONDON] Britain risks losing its influence on the global stage if it votes to leave the European Union in June, business leaders warned.

Publicis Groupe SA Chairman Maurice Levy, former Italian prime minister, Mario Monti, and Confederation of British Industry head Carolyn Fairbairn, making the case for Britain to remain in the EU in a Bloomberg Television panel discussion, stressed that leaving would cost the country access to the single market and the opportunity to shape decisions within the bloc.

Making the case for a an exit, former UK finance ministers, Nigel Lawson and Norman Lamont, and founder and managing partner of Better Capital, John Moulton, argued freedom from EU regulation would be a risk worth taking and prove beneficial in the longer-term.

Prime Minister David Cameron "has decided to play with this fantastic great European dream just for internal purposes and a career path," Mr Levy said in the debate in London. "The UK has always been an open country. Entrenching the UK in an island would be a big mistake."

With only weeks to go before the June 23 referendum, Britain's Conservative cabinet has split over whether Britain should stay in the EU and polls show swathes of the electorate remain undecided. Mr Cameron, who is campaigning to stay in, has staked his career on the vote and focused his arguments on the economic dangers posed by an exit.

Groups campaigning for the UK to leave have accused the government of scaremongering, with a group of eight pro-brexit economists on Thursday attacking a Treasury analysis of the risks of exit published earlier this month as a "misleading piece of propaganda."

The campaign to quit the bloc has been on the back foot in recent weeks, with US President Barack Obama joining in the chorus of warnings about the potential fallout from an exit.

"The alternative to being in the European Union is not being in the European Union, Mr Lawson said. "It may surprise you that most of the rest of the world is not in the European Union. And most of the rest of the world is doing better than the European Union."

The Number Cruncher Politics Referendum Forecast, generated by political blogger Matt Singh, showed the probability of Britain voting to leave the EU up 1 percentage point Thursday at 21 per cent.

BLOOMBERG