French President Francois Hollande voiced hope today that Britons “will remember” their close ties to Europe when they vote in a June 23 referendum on EU membership.
“We are as united as we have ever been,” Hollande said after joining a ceremonial first train ride through the world’s longest tunnel as it opened in Switzerland.
“I hope that the British will remember (that closeness) when the day comes” to cast their vote, he said.
In March, Hollande warned that a British exit from the 28-nation bloc would have an impact “in many areas,” including the single European market, the financial sector and bilateral economic ties.
Hollande today drew a parallel between the construction of the 57-kilometre (35-mile) Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT), which opened under the Swiss Alps, with another trailblazing project, the Channel Tunnel.
The 50-km link, which opened in 1994, means that London and Paris are less than three hours apart by high-speed rail — a closeness that has woven many ties in business, tourism and culture.
“Nobody imagined that it would be possible one day to travel from France to England in this way,” Hollande said.
On Monday, a poll published for The Guardian newspaper showed the “leave” vote at 52 per cent against 48 per cent for staying.
The poll matched the trend seen in other surveys.
For example, a Financial Times survey showed the “stay” vote still ahead but the gap between the two narrowed to three percentage points from six points a week ago.
Uncertainty over the outcome of the referendum has hit the sterling. The pound sank by one percent against the US dollar and the euro yesterday.