Brexit could plunge UK back into recession says former Chancellor Alistair Darling

Alistair Darling speaks at the annual dinner of the CBI Credit: PA

Brexit could plunge the UK back into recession according to former Chancellor Alistair Darling.

Speaking to business leaders at this evening's annual dinner of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Mr Darling warned that a vote to leave the European Union would be "disastrous" for the living standards of working people.

"When economic experts from Christine Lagarde to Mark Carney are warning of recession if we leave Europe, people should sit up and take notice of the scale of the risk we face," the Labour Party politician said.

"Recent experience and historic evidence shows that when our economy suffers this kind of serious damage, insolvencies, repossessions and unemployment, particularly among young people, all soar.

"Economists and economic institutions are queuing up to warn of damage to trade, growth, investment, our credit rating, and the pound.

"Collectively these warnings should sound alarm bells but in a desperate response, the Leave campaign always play the man not the ball," said the Remain campaigner.

Lord Howard Credit: PA

Also speaking at the Grosvenor Hotel dinner was former Conservative party leader and Leave campaigner Lord Howard, who criticised the CBI's record on the EU, arguing that lack of democracy was hurting business.

He said that while only five per cent of UK businesses exported to the EU, they all have to comply with single market legislation which disproportionately burdened small companies.

"If we Vote Leave we can take back the power to make our own trade agreements. At the moment, we have no trade deals with India, China, Brazil or even Australia and New Zealand. We have to wait for 27 other member states to agree before we can arrange a single trade deal," he argued.

'If we left the EU with no trade deal - inconceivable given the tariff free zone from Iceland to Turkey - our exports would face EU tariffs averaging just 2.4 per cent.

"But our net contribution to the EU budget is equivalent to a seven per cent tariff. Paying seven per cent to avoid 2.4 per cent is mis-selling on a scale that dwarfs the scandal of PPI."

Lord Howard also pointed to the fact that the CBI called for full UK membership of the European Monetary System in 1987, which led to 15 per cent interest rates in 1992, and later argued in favour of joining the euro.