The Latest: Farage withdraws from TV debate on EU referendum

LONDON – The Latest on the British referendum on EU membership (all times local):

8:45 p.m.

UK Independence Party chief Nigel Farage has withdrawn from a planned live TV event to discuss the British EU referendum.

The prominent “leave” campaigner’s office said Wednesday the decision was made for “family reasons.”

Farage had been planning to be part of a live TV show on the eve of the referendum along with many other campaigners from both sides of the debate.

Farage has been one of the most visible leaders of the “leave” campaign, arguing that Britain would do much better outside the 28-member bloc.


7:05 p.m.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he wants to see Britain remain in the European Union so it can continue to be a strong voice in support of trade and economic prosperity.

Trudeau made the remarks Wednesday at a news conference on the eve of a British referendum that will decide whether the country remains part of the 28-country bloc.

Canada has negotiated a free trade deal with the EU, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, that both sides want to see ratified and in force by early next year.

Trudeau says Britain has always been a strong and positive voice in the EU on the deal, and he wants to see that remain the case after Thursday’s vote.


4:35 p.m.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel says that whatever the outcome of the British referendum, he will seek a special meeting of European Union leaders to assess what has sent the bloc off the rails.

Michel says he wants an informal meeting because “there is this clear signal all over Europe, not only in Britain” of discontent.

He told the VRT network that “we feel more and more hesitation about the European project.”

The 28 EU leaders will already be meeting next Tuesday and Wednesday at a previously scheduled summit to assess the referendum outcome.

Michel is joining an increasing chorus of leaders who say the EU’s malaise runs deeper than British discontent and needs a fundamental assessment.


3:40 p.m.

The European Commission president vowed that Britain will not be able to renegotiate better terms to stay in the EU in case it votes in Thursday’s referendum to leave the bloc.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday that “out is out” in case of a vote to quit the 28-nation bloc.

There had been some reasoning that the EU would be so bent on keeping Britain in the EU that it would be willing to come up with new sweeteners to entice London.

British Prime Minister David Cameron obtained a series of concessions to limit immigration and commitments to stay out of closer union at a February summit of EU leaders before he called for the referendum.

Juncker said Wednesday that Cameron “got the maximum he could receive and we gave the maximum we could give so there will be no kind of renegotiation — not on the agreement we found in February nor as far as any kind of treaty negotiation. Out is out.”


3:20 p.m.

The German and Polish leaders say they hope that Britain votes to stay in the European Union in Thursday’s referendum, and are vowing to ensure that the EU is strong.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin Wednesday: “I would of course like, as I have often said … Great Britain to remain in the European Union, but that is a decision for the citizens of Great Britain.”

She said she wouldn’t speculate on the dangers posed by a possible British exit, but added that “we will advocate a strong European Union.”

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said “we very much hope that the British want to stay in the European Union.” But she said that a European Union without Britain would have to “change its workings somewhat.”


3:10 p.m.

The chief of the NATO alliance says Britain remaining in the European Union is key for trans-Atlantic security and common efforts to fight violent extremism.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday “it’s up to the people of Great Britain to decide whether to remain or leave.”

But he added, he can say what matters for NATO: “A strong U.K. in a strong Europe is good for the U.K., but it’s also good for NATO.”

Stoltenberg spoke to The Associated Press one day before British voters are to cast ballots in a referendum on EU membership.

He said that to face a daunting array of contemporary security threats, “we need a strong Europe and a strong NATO together.”

Stoltenberg added that “the UK is key in making sure that that happens.”


3:05 p.m.

One of the biggest players in the foreign exchange markets has told clients to brace for interruptions in trading amid fears of volatility connected to the vote on whether Britain should remain in the European Union.

Investment bank UBS told clients in a note that there could be a surge in trading volumes no matter what happens in the referendum on Thursday.

Britain’s biggest bank, HSBC, says it that its hubs in London, New York and Hong Kong are capable of providing round-the-clock trading services at “even the busiest and most volatile times.

The bank adds that “with high profile, market-moving events, we will have more staff working extended hours in one or more centres to make sure we can help our clients and manage our risk.”


2:45 p.m.

You would not think of it, but if Britain votes to leave the European Union on Thursday, the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben clock would also have to leave Europe — well, Mini-Europe.

On the outskirts of Brussels, Mini-Europe has miniature versions of the most famous landmarks of the 28-nation EU, including Rome’s St. Peter’s Cathedral , the Acropolis in Athens and the Eiffel Tower

In the run-up to Thursday’s referendum, Mini-Europe posted mini-protesters from the remain and exit camps outside London’s Houses of Parliament waving banners.

Mini-Europe owner Thierry Meeus knows where his heart lies and the so-called Brexit is no part of his future.

“If it happens we will have to remove a lot of models of buildings,” Meeus told VTM network. “It would be a disaster for our visitors and clients.”


2:40 p.m.

Turkey’s foreign minister says his country’s accession process to the European Union should not be a part of the campaigning leading up to the British referendum on whether to remain in the bloc.

Speaking at a news conference in Ankara on Wednesday, Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was “wrong to suggest Turkey will arrive and become a burden on Europe.”

The EU opened membership negotiations with Muslim-majority Turkey in 2005. Turkey’s accession talks have been a topic of debate in Britain ahead of the vote.


2:25 p.m.

Britain’s Electoral Commission has said “NON” to a group that wanted to hand out croissants to London commuters as an act of friendship ahead of the vote on whether to remain in the European Union.

The commission says that the efforts of the group, #operationcroissant, violate guidelines banning the use of food to influence votes.

Commuters at London’s King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations were instead given postcards from Parisians asking them to stay. The 600 croissants from Paris were donated to homeless shelters.

Rosa Rankin-Gee, a writer based in Paris, says #operationcroissant was an effort to do something “stripped of the angry, politicized and divisive campaigning.”

She says they “are happy to fall on our baguettes and stick to the right side of British law.”


2:15 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande says the European Union’s future is at stake in the British referendum Thursday.

The United Kingdom leaving the EU would have “very serious consequences,” Hollande said following a meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico in Paris.

Hollande says he hopes the British will choose to remain in the EU.

Hollande says: “There’s a very serious risk for the United Kingdom not to be able to access the common market and … the European economic area anymore.”

France would “draw all the conclusions” of such a vote, he warned. “This would be irreversible.”


12:10 p.m.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg fears a British vote to leave the EU would make Europe “weaker, more fragmented and nationalistic.”

In comments to Norwegian broadcaster NRK, the leader of the oil-rich Scandinavian country that has twice voted in referendums to stay out of the EU said a weaker Europe would mean the economic situation will be more difficult when reforms and competitiveness are needed.

“But it will also mean a more political and fragmented Europe, a weaker Europe and a weaker world,” she said in the interview on Wednesday.

She said that in a world where “we are increasingly dependent on each other and solve issues together, it’s dangerous to demolish joint institutions,” adding that she is “deeply worried” should Britain opt out of the EU.


10:50 a.m.

A German economic think-tank says more than a third of industrial companies it surveyed in the country, Europe’s biggest economy, fear that a British exit from the European Union would have negative effects on their business.

The Ifo institute, which also produces a closely watched monthly business confidence index, said Wednesday that it surveyed 1,478 companies between June 6 and 21 to gauge their expectations of a possible British exit.

It said 38 per cent of the firms questioned fear negative effects, and that those worries were particularly pronounced among companies with more than 500 employees. Another 61 per cent expected no effect on their business, while just 1 per cent expected positive effects.

Britain was the No. 3 destination for German exports last year and was Germany’s fifth-biggest trading partner overall.


8:50 a.m.

Prime Minister David Cameron is taking on a frantic day of campaigning on the eve of vote on whether or not Britain will leave the European Union.

Cameron defended Britain’s participation in the 28-nation bloc in a BBC interview Wednesday, arguing that the country benefits from membership and rejected the notion that the institution is moribund.

Cameron says: “We are not shackled to a corpse.”

Meanwhile, the most notable figure in the “leave” campaign, former London Mayor Boris Johnson, has kicked off a whirlwind tour of England as he pushes for a British exit — or Brexit.

Johnson toured Billingsgate Fish Market and urged voters to “believe in our country.”

He says “this is a crucial time.”


8:35 a.m.

Leaders of about half of Britain’s largest companies have made a last ditch appeal to their employees to vote for remaining in the European Union.

In a letter to the Times on the eve of Thursday’s vote, some 1,285 business leaders — include representatives of half of the FTSE 100 businesses — argue that a vote to leave will hurt the British economy.

Similar letters have been released in the course of the acrimonious campaign. But Wednesday’s letter is clearly meant to make the 1.75 million people employed by the signatories to think twice about their vote.

The letter says: “Britain leaving the EU would mean uncertainty for our firms, less trade with Europe and fewer jobs.”

The companies represented include Barclays, Standard Life and Anglo American.