IMF's Lagarde wishes 'fellow European' Brits bon courage in EU vote

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks at a refugee crisis panel in advance of the IMF/World Bank spring meetings in Washington April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo - RTX2EILJ

VIENNA (Reuters) - IMF chief Christine Lagarde urged British voters on Friday to have the “courage” to vote the right way in next week’s referendum on whether to leave the European Union.

Without explicitly urging Britons to vote “Remain”, she said there was a clear case by most economists against Brexit.

“It has been said that ‘it takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it.’ So I wish bon courage to our fellow Europeans from the United Kingdom!” Lagarde said in a speech in Vienna.

The International Monetary Fund delayed a report on Britain’s economy, due on Thursday, for 24 hours due to the murder of Labour member of parliament and “Remain” campaigner Jo Cox. Referendum campaigning in Britain remains suspended.

Lagarde said the IMF was “neutral” in Britain’s highly charged political debate, but that the facts spoke for themselves.

“I certainly hope that from our neutral position we can at least shed some light on the economic value of one choice or the other,” Lagarde said, adding that most British people had benefited from EU membership.

“We have reached our determination and certainly concluded that the economic risks of leaving are firmly to the downside,” she said, later declining to elaborate in a panel discussion with Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle and Francois Murphy; Editing by Robin Pomeroy