Brexit could cost 525,000 jobs, senior Labour figures warn


More than 500,000 public sector jobs could be lost if Britain votes to leave the European Union, senior Labour figures are warning as the party steps up efforts to persuade its traditional supporters to back Remain.

As a series of polls put Leave ahead, former shadow chancellor Ed Balls and shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander were among 28 Labour politicians and trade unionists warning the public sector will be hit if - as some economic experts predict - a vote for Brexit results in a recession.

At the same time, the Remain campaign has released a letter signed by 60 past heads of the medical royal colleges and the British Medical Association (BMA) highlighting what they say is the "threat" to the future of the National Health Service if Britain pulls out of the EU.

Analysis by the TUC claimed Brexit could cost the NHS a quarter of its entire budget by the end of the decade, while 12 trade union leaders have signed a joint letter warning that a vote for Leave would be a "disaster" for working people.

The latest interventions represent a further concerted effort by the Remain camp to reach out to traditional Labour supporters amid concerns that they are swinging strongly in favour of Leave.

A YouGov poll for The Times put Leave seven points ahead on 46%, with Remain on 39%, while a pair of ICM polls for The Guardian - one telephone the other online - has Leave ahead by 53% to 47% if the "don't knows" are excluded.

ORB in the Daily Telegraph has Leave ahead by 49% to 48% among those who are certain to vote although Remain still has an overall lead of 49% to 44% among all respondents.

In a campaign event at TUC headquarters attended by the shadow cabinet and leading trade unionists, Jeremy Corbyn - who has been criticised for lacklustre campaigning - will acknowledge that time is running out for Remain.

"We have just nine days to go to convince Labour supporters to vote Remain," he will say.

By playing on concerns about the NHS and public sector jobs, the Remain camp clearly hopes to have hit on a message that resonates with the Labour voter base.

In their analysis, the senior Labour figures - including former home secretaries Alan Johnson, Charles Clarke and Jacqui Smith and the former TUC general secretary John Monks - estimate that 525,000 public sector jobs could go in the event of a post-Brexit recession.

"Independent economic experts agree that leaving Europe could hit our economy. This includes the governor of the Bank of England who warned we could go into recession," they said in a joint statement..

"Britain's vital public services like the NHS rely on a strong economy and continued investment. But if we leave, the shock to our economy could see a £40 billion black hole in our public finances that would hobble our public services and affect workers on the front line."

In their letter the former heads of the royal colleges and the BMA said leaving the EU would result in an "immediate large decline in national income" which would only worsen the "financial crisis" in the NHS.

"It is Brexit that is the threat to the NHS, not our membership of the EU," they said.

The trade union general secretaries, including Frances O'Grady of the TUC and Unite's Len McCluskey, also warned the NHS would "suffer", with less to spend on nurses, midwives and hospitals.

"Right now, we're worried. Worried that the UK will vote to leave the European Union - and that will be a disaster for working people," they said.

Their claims were dismissed by Vote Leave. Gisela Stuart, one of a handful of Labour MPs backing Brexit, said: "The EU is bad for the NHS. Public services face pressure from immigration that we cannot control while rules dictated from Brussels put the interests of bureaucrats ahead of those of patients."