Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 October 2019

Gordon Brown warns of social unrest with no-deal Brexit

Former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair join him to criticise the option of crashing out of the EU

Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has campaigned to keep Britain in the European Union. Getty
Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has campaigned to keep Britain in the European Union. Getty

Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown said Britain was in danger of descending into “paranoid nationalism” if its new leader pressed ahead with a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Brown, premier from 2007 to 2010, warned that leaving the European Union without a deal on political relations and trade would prompt an economic crisis for millions of people who were least able to cope.

The former Labour leader quoted a poll by anti-extremism group Hope Not Hate, which said that two thirds of Britons believed the economy and the fight against terrorism would be harmed if the UK crashed out of the EU.

Mr Brown said it would be “economically dangerous” and socially divisive.

Boris Johnson is expected to be named as the UK’s new prime minister on Tuesday and has pledged to take the UK out of the 28-nation bloc by October 31, even if he is unable to secure an agreement on future relations.

A no-deal Brexit would mean that 46 years of regulations, laws and agreements would be swept away at a stroke, with senior business leaders warning that would deal a severe blow to the economy.

Mr Brown said Britons could expect sharp rise in food prices, traffic chaos and shortages of medical supplies within hours of a no-deal Brexit.

He said Brexit campaigners were trying to recreate a Britain of “indomitable fortitude” but “all too easily this hijacking of patriotism descends into an inward-looking, intolerant and adversarial brand of paranoid nationalism hell-bent on blaming all who disagree".

Mr Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, a vocal critic of Brexit and fellow Labour leader, on Monday called for a second referendum, which could reverse the 2016 vote to leave the EU.

He said it was not unreasonable to ask people to have another vote given the "hugeness of the decision" and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

John Major, the former Conservative prime minister and Mr Blair’s predecessor, also criticised a shift towards a hard Brexit.

Mr Major said he would take legal action to prevent any attempt to suspend Parliament by pro-Brexiteers, to avoid sceptical policymakers blocking a no-deal divorce.

Updated: July 23, 2019 08:27 AM

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