The former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that quitting the European Union (EU) “would not be British.”
In a speech as part of the official Remain campaign, Mr Brown invoked Winston Churchill to argue that voting to stay in is the patriotic thing for Britons to do.
The current Prime Minister David Cameron provoked ridicule this week when he suggested that quitting the EU could lead to World War Three, but Mr Brown invoked a similar argument on the campaign trail today, saying:
“For 1,000 years nations and tribes of Europe were fighting to the finish and murdering and maiming each other. There is no century except this one where Europe has been at peace and nations […] were not vying for supremacy.”
Since WWII, he said, nations now “battle with arguments and ideas” and not “with weapons and armaments”.
“It is like we have not just exchanged swords for ploughshares, we have made it possible so that people never think that swords will be used again.”
The comments were developed further in in an article published by The Guardian this morning, in which the former Prime Minister was able to accuse Brexit backers, often the most ardent supporters of global trade, of being isolationist.
Painting instead the Europhiles as the true guardians of the Dunkirk spirit, he wrote: “The Brexit camp conjures up the Britain of 1940 – standing alone, a race apart, an island that has always been sufficient unto itself. Wave after crushing wave of globalisation, it says, reinforces its demand to bring control back home,” he said.
“But there is another, more resonant view of Britishness that confronts the Ukip-inspired culture war head on. It sees Britain’s finest hour and the Dunkirk spirit in a different light: of a people who would not stand aside when Europe was in mortal danger and who, as defenders of liberty, intervened time and again to make sure tyranny never triumphed.”
Mr Brown also used his speech to say that Britain ought to be both fully involved in Europe and a leader in reforming Europe, despite Mr Cameron’s failure at negotiation a new deal earlier this year. During a question and answer session following his speech, he said: “The future lies in a united Europe of states rather than a United States of Europe.
“Too much cooperation and people will feel their identity is at risk, too little cooperation and it will not be possible to solve the economic, social and environmental problems we face.”
A spokesman for the Leave campaign said: “Gordon Brown was in a government that gave away part of our rebate and opened our borders across the EU. Lessons on the patriotic case for the EU will ring hollow from a prime minister with such a disastrous record in Europe.”