Britain would become like North Korea with “few friends” and “no influence” if it leaves the EU, according to former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
Writing in The Guardian on Monday (9 March), Brown said taking the “Hong Kong option” of leaving the EU to trade with the world was in reality the “North Korea option”.
Such a move would leave the UK “out in the cold with few friends, no influence, little new trade and even less new investment”. The geopolitical impact would be “Europe divided, Russia empowered, and the US bypassing us for a Franco-German axis,” said Brown.
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold an in/out referendum on Britain’s EU membership by the end of 2017 if his Conservative Party wins the general election on May 7.
Brown’s Labour Party, running neck and neck with Conservatives in most polls, has said it will not offer such a referendum unless there is a substantial shift of powers from London to Brussels.
Brown warned any future referendum on EU membership must not rely on “laudable factsheets”.
The prominence of business leaders and multinational companies championing membership risked adding fuel to the Eurosceptic argument that the EU is “for an elite who don’t understand the real Britain”.
“If we are to win hearts, our core message must be bigger than the business case, bigger also than principled arguments for European engagement: that the true patriotic course for Britain is not just to engage but to lead in Europe,” said Brown.
Brown warned that the Eurosceptic UK Independence Party were beginning a “culture war” promoting a “siege mentality against the outsider” and framing their position as the patriotic choice, summed up by UKIP’s spring conference slogan, “Believe in Britain.”
Brown said there was “not one shred of evidence” membership of the EU has resulted in the country becoming “any less British” and there was a firm patriotic case that staying in the EU was in Britain’s national interest.
The lobby group Business for Britain called the article “scaremongering from the ‘in at all costs’ crowd.”
The Conservatives have promised an in/out referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017 if they win May's general election.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he would campaign for the UK to stay in the EU, but only if he is able to negotiate reforms to the EU, saying, “Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union.”
The issue of a referendum is likely to be a key factor in the general election on 7 May.
7 May 2015: UK general election
2017: Proposed year of referendum on UK membership of the EU
Gordon Brown in The Guardian: The truly patriotic British view on Europe? We must lead from within