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European integration threatened by 'Brexit', refugee crisis: IMF

This Oct 6, 2015 IMF file photo shows International Monetary Fund (IMF) Economic Counselor Maurice Obstfeld as he answers questions during the World Economic Outlook press conference at the 2015 IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Lima, Peru.

[WASHINGTON] The migrant crisis and Britain's threat to pull out of the European Union pose threats to European economic integration, the IMF's new chief economist told AFP in an interview.

"I worry a lot about the strong trend in Europe to pull back from market integration," said Maurice Obstfeld, a former economic adviser of US President Barack Obama.

"One factor is the refugee crisis, where there's a lot of pressure on open borders and workers' mobility," he said.

"There is a lot of political pressure coming from the extremes which could undo a lot of the economic integration that has occurred." But there are other important challenges, he added.

"Another obvious one is Britain wanting to possibly leave the European Union." Amid complaints in Britain that the country's benefits in the 28-member EU are much less than what it commits to as a member, Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on membership by the end of 2017.

On Tuesday, Mr Cameron warned that Britain could leave the EU if it does not get the reforms it wants from the organisation.