Former British PM Gordon Brown makes 'patriotic' case against Brexit

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown said on Thursday (April 21) he was setting out a "patriotic" case for Britain to remain in the European Union. PHOTO: THE BUSINESS TIMES FILE

LONDON (AFP) - Former British prime minister Gordon Brown said on Thursday (April 21) he was setting out a "patriotic" case for Britain to remain in the European Union, in his first intervention on the looming referendum.

Mr Brown said it would be a "tragedy" if the campaign to leave the European Union was seen as the patriotic side in the June 23 vote.

The Scot said there were two competing visions of Britain: one that "stands aloof", and an "outward-looking" and "internationalist" approach he is promoting.

Mr Brown's impassioned late intervention for the "No" campaign in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum is credited with being one of the factors behind a majority of Scots voting to stay in the United Kingdom.

"It would be a tragedy if those people who say that Britain should leave the European Union were identified as the patriotic group and those who wanted to stay in were seen in some way as standing up for Europe against Britain," Mr Brown told an audience in London.

"So my message is: be positive, be principled and be patriotic and put the case with passion."

Mr Brown, who was prime minister from 2007 to 2010, outlined two different visions of Britain: "The Britain that stands alone, that stands aloof, the Britain of the Dunkirk Spirit, the Britain that is fiercely independent."

On the other side was a Britain "that has always been best when it is outward-looking, when it is engaged and when it is internationalist".

He added: "As the world becomes more interdependent... the Britain that is outward-looking, the Britain that is engaged, the Britain that is internationalist will be the Britain that young people identify with."

The former Labour leader also urged supporters of the centre-left party to get out and vote.

Mr Brown, who was former prime minister Tony Blair's finance minister from 1997 to 2007, said many of them did not feel the status quo was working for them and did not feel financially secure.

He said the way to convince them was with a positive pro-EU message about jobs, security and the environment.

Mr Brown said communities hit by high levels of EU immigration should be given more help from the government and Brussels.

The 65-year-old also said crises in the Middle East and Africa required an EU-wide approach.

He said looking at the right balance between "the autonomy we desire and the co-operation we need, if the EU was not in existence it would have to be invented to deal with these problems on our doorstep", he said.

Opinion polls put the "Leave" and "Remain" camps neck-and-neck, though bookmakers put a vote to stay as their odds-on favourite.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.