EU referendum: Osborne's change of tactics

Should we be afraid, very afraid?

What Eurosceptics call Project Fear just took a new turn.

Speaking to me in China, where he's attending a meeting of finance ministers from around the world, Chancellor George Osborne used dramatic language to describe the risk to the UK economy if we vote to leave the European Union.

He said that exit would be a "profound economic shock", in the words of one prominent Out campaigner, really "upping the ante".

Mr Osborne is adamant that a decision to leave would genuinely imperil our economy at a time when jitters around the world mean there are already many risks.

The chancellor said the economy faces more risks of uncertainty than at any point since the financial crisis in 2008 so, it would be the "very worst time" for Britain to take what he described as an "enormous economic gamble".

Of course, those campaigning to leave the EU believe the country could be just as, if not even more prosperous outside the union than in.

And until recently the chancellor and the prime minister both repeatedly said they would be ready to walk away from the EU if they refused to give the UK a new and improved deal.

If he really believes it would be a huge economic calamity if we left, I asked him, would he really have been ready to leave?

He says they really meant it and didn't rule it out.

Having listened to him talk about what he believes is at stake, I'm not quite so sure.

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