Reuters International

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi talks during a news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (not seen) at Chigi palace in Rome, Italy May 19, 2016. REUTERS/Max Rossi

(reuters_tickers)

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned Britain on Friday that there would be no turning back if it voted to leave the European Union in next week's referendum.

"If the United Kingdom leaves Europe, it is forever," he said during a roundtable discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Renzi said he believed Britons would vote to stay in the European Union in the June 23 ballot, but added that if the referendum went the other way there would be short-term problems for everyone, "above all for the United Kingdom".

"Either way, the European Union needs to rethink itself," he said.

Renzi also said "there is a need for Europe and Russia to become good neighbours again", adding that the impasse over sanctions against Moscow because of its annexation of Crimea "could be overcome" if the Minsk accords were fully implemented.

(Writing by Philip Pullella; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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