13th Apr 2024

Leaving EU would make Britain like 'North Korea'

  • Brown (r) made the North Korea statement in an interview with The Guardian (Photo:

Britain would resemble a European "North Korea" if it chose to leave the EU, former prime minister Gordon Brown has claimed.

In an article for The Guardian newspaper on Tuesday (10 March), on the eve of a final UK parliament debate on the EU ahead of a general election in May, he argues that “the Hong Kong option – 'leaving Europe to join the world' – is really the North Korea option, out in the cold with few friends, no influence, little new trade and even less new investment".

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But he also warns that Britain’s main pro-European campaign groups risk being views as “a worthy, London establishment-led corporate-financed fact-based campaign of “the great and the good”, whose commitment to Europe is admirable but whose prominence will be used by anti-Europeans to justify the allegation that Europe is for an elite which doesn’t understand the real Britain”.

Brown’s article comes a day after the Open Europe think tank, which calls for reform of the bloc, argued that Britain outside the EU would be likely to secure preferential trade terms with the bloc, but would struggle to guarantee "seamless access" to EU markets for its services sectors, and particularly its lucrative financial services industry.

In the first of a series of reports on the implications of a ‘Brexit’, Open Europe states that this would be because the UK “has a deficit with the EU in goods, but a surplus in services”.

“All sectors would suffer from the UK’s loss of voting rights in the EU, but for industries such as the financial sector the impact could be greater since the barriers to entering European markets could be increased by new EU regulations over which the UK has no votes,” the report adds.

During his three year stint as prime minister, Brown piloted the Lisbon treaty through parliament despite calls from David Cameron’s Conservatives to hold a referendum on the document.

But prior to that his main role in Britain’s relationship with the EU was in devising a series of economic tests designed to keep the country from joining the eurozone.

His article says that Cameron’s threats to leave the EU unless powers are repatriated to the UK has left “a Britain that is semi-detached and disengaged – the Britain of the empty chair even when we are in the room”.

Having largely kept away from the political spotlight since losing power in 2010, Brown was widely credited with making a decisive intervention in the referendum campaign on Scottish independence last September, making a series of impassioned speeches in favour of Scotland remaining part of the UK. He will, however, leave parliament at the May election.

David Cameron has promised to re-negotiate Britain’s EU membership terms followed by a referendum, probably to be held in 2017, if his Conservative party wins the election.

Both the opposition Labour party and Cameron’s current coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, have ruled out a poll unless a future EU treaty is adopted which shifts more power from national to EU level.

Recent polls suggest that Britons would vote to remain in the bloc by a narrow margin.

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