Reuters International

Otmar Issing, one of the founding fathers of the euro and a former European Central Bank chief economist in Frankfurt in this August 9, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Alex Domanski

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GENEVA (Reuters) - A sudden shock in the next two weeks such as a militant attack on the Euro 2016 football tournament in France could jolt Britain into a vote for Brexit, former European Central Bank chief economist Otmar Issing said on Friday.

Issing, who was addressing a seminar of Swiss bankers in Geneva, said the British people found it difficult to understand all the arguments being put by the two sides battling for or against taking Britain out of the EU.

"If anything happens, any event – take the refugee problem, then the outcome is done. Take the European football championship - if there is any terrorist event, then I think the reaction of the British on the Brexit point, it’s also done. It’s not a rational decision," he said.

The biggest worry about Brexit was not Britain leaving the European Union, which was bad enough, he said.

"The biggest concern is that after this long period of ongoing (EU) integration, it would be the first step to go backwards. The extremist parties in a number of countries, like the Front National, they are just waiting for such an example. And this might trigger dynamics that are very difficult to control."

Many people had lost confidence in politicians and mainstream political parties, he said.

"Just yesterday, a friend of mine called me and said: 'Imagine the next G7 meeting, attended by an American president Trump, an Italian president Beppe Grillo, by the English Prime Minister Boris Johnson...' and I said 'Stop before you get to France'.

"It sounds funny, but it's very alarming. These figures are expressing the desperation of many people."

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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