‘Many voted to stay in the European Union and feel very frustrated we are outside it.’
As the drive to rejoin the European Union gathers momentum, with thousands marching in London last weekend for the National Rejoin March, Gordon Brown has advocated support for Britain re-entering the bloc.
Speaking in London on September 26, the former prime minister said that many people “feel very frustrated” about the UK no longer being a member of the EU. Citing figures from the London School of Economics (LSE) that attribute a third of the rise of the cost of food in Britain to Brexit, Brown said that our departure from the EU has already had tangible effects on the UK economy, and “people are starting to see the effects on the household budgets of what is happening.”
Gordon Brown, who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1997 to 2007, has long backed calls for a second Brexit referendum. In November 2018, he said that he believed a ‘second referendum will happen as people come to the conclusion that since 2016 the situation has changed and at some point they will want to have the final say.” Five years later, and the former Labour leader says that a return to Europe is crucial to the prosperity and stability of the UK, and that he has always said that Britain should re-enter.
“I can see it from Scotland as well as from London, and people in other parts of the country, many voted to stay in the European Union and feel very frustrated we are outside it.”
Endorsing Keir Starmer’s position on Brexit, he added: “Now, I accept that is going to be a difficult road back and I also accept what Keir Starmer is trying to do to build bridges, but at the same time making sure that people understand the problems that he faces as a result of that.
“But I would be talking about trade agreements between America and Britain and Europe and America at the moment, and I’d be talking about the danger to our economy if we actually become isolationist and protectionist,” he said.
When asked whether Starmer should be bolder and point out that Britain is worse off with Brexit, Brown joked that he wasn’t the “best person to give advice about winning an election.”
“… the best advice to Keir Starmer is not to take my advice. I think you’ll see us being a very internationalist Labour. A very internationalist party.”
Brown dismissed the idea that if the UK was to join, it would have to adopt the single currency. He suggested that French president Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for a political community, larger than the EU, suggests a different kind of European integration.
“They cannot make it a condition for countries that are not ready to join a single currency to join. So you’re talking about a very different kind of Europe but the principle remains the same, that we are better off when we co-operate”, he said.
The comments were made during an event put on by the Guardian, where the former Labour leader introduced his new book. Permacrisis: A Plan To Fix A Fractured World has been co-written by Brown and economists Mohamed El-Erian and Michael Spence. The book looks at the rapidly increasing chaos in the world, including worsening inequality and surging nationalism.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward