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Gordon Brown compares Brexit campaign to Donald Trump

Published 13/06/2016

Gordon Brown has compared the Brexit movement to the populist campaign of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, as Labour launched a drive to persuade its supporters to vote to Remain in the June 23 referendum.

The former prime minister accused the Leave campaign of seeking a return to an outdated Victorian conception of sovereignty, which he said would be a "huge disaster" for jobs and the economy.

But his intervention was dismissed as a sign of "panic" by leading Leave campaigner Boris Johnson, who said Mr Brown was to blame for relaxing immigration controls while in power.

With 10 days to go before Britain decides whether to end its 43-year membership of the EU, opposition figures are being thrust centre-stage by concerns that growing numbers of Labour voters may be considering a Leave vote.

Pro-EU leaders are concerned that this potentially pivotal group has been pushed towards Brexit by the campaign's focus on Tory rivalries and immigration as well as uncertainties over leader Jeremy Corbyn's commitment to the EU cause.

Following a series of polls suggesting Leave gaining support, bookmakers slashed their odds on Brexit to their shortest since the referendum date was announced, with William Hill now rating the chances of a vote for withdrawal at 36%.

Meanwhile, European Council president Donald Tusk issued a dramatic warning that UK withdrawal could start a process leading to the destruction not only of the EU, but of "western political civilisation".

Europe's enemies would be drinking champagne to celebrate British departure, he told German newspaper Bild.

But pro-Brexit minister Priti Patel said his warning was a sign of "desperation" in Brussels, and said it was the single currency and not the referendum that posed a threat to European civilisations.

Speaking in Leicester, Mr Brown said that globalisation had created challenges which required "economic co-operation and sharing and integration" between nation states, but at the same time led to demands from some to "bring control back home".

"It is not just here in Britain, it is in Trump in America, other movements in America, other movements in Europe - Greece, Spain, Germany, Austria," he said.

"Globalisation creates this sense there's a runaway train out of control. What we need to do is to show we can manage globalisation and global change in the public interest but at the same time we have got to respect people's love of national identity.

"We've got to show that we can balance the autonomy that people want with the co-operation we need. That is what the European Union is about.

"It is not some giant project for a federal superstate, but it's not a return - which is impossible - to 19th century views of sovereignty which even America, the biggest superpower in the world, has left behind."

Mr Brown said that the EU single market was set to be "the biggest job creator of the next 10 years", with the potential for 500,000 more high-quality jobs from opening up markets in Europe.

And he warned: " You cannot succeed in securing financial stability or dealing with pollution or dealing with growth and trade or inequality ... without co-operation with your neighbours."

Labour's shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn accused the Leave camp of "doing down our country" by claiming that only by quitting the EU can Britain become great again.

Speaking in London, Mr Benn said that Britain "never stopped being great and can be greater still in the future" by playing a leading role in the EU as well as the United Nations, Nato and the Commonwealth.

He said immigration to the UK would continue whether Britain was a member of the EU or not, and predicted that those hoping a Leave vote would bring numbers down significantly would be "bitterly disappointed".

On a Leave campaign push in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Mr Johnson was dismissive of the Labour initiative.

"I can tell that the Remain side are a little bit rattled because they had a relaunch and they decided to use Gordon Brown, so that's a measure of the panic that they're in," said the former London mayor.

"You can tell that they are panicking because they are resorting to more and more scare stories, more and more misery, more and more discussion of the end of civilisation."

Meanwhile, fellow Leave campaigner Michael Gove said he would not mind being dismissed from the Cabinet if the UK votes to Remain in the EU.

"I don't mind if my Cabinet career is over," said the Justice Secretary. "I think the most important thing is to make a principled case for Britain leaving the EU."

Mr Brown said the UK should be "leading in Europe, not leaving it".

"Britain is at its best when it is outward-looking, engaged, welcoming, internationally-minded, thinking of itself as having a huge role in the world," said the former PM.

"This is the Britain I know, and this is the Britain I believe we find in history. Not inward-looking, but outward-looking, not disengaged and detached but engaged, not isolationist and insular but internationally-minded."

He added: "For 1,000 years or more the nations of Europe were at war with each other in every single century but this one, nations fighting for supremacy and maiming and murdering each other.

"In every generation except ours, men and women having to go to fight because Europe could not be at peace.

"This was the Europe we knew, and this was the Europe that we've now left behind."

Mr Brown said leading Leave campaigners like Mr Johnson, Mr Gove, Iain Duncan Smith and Nigel Farage were motivated by "hatred" of Europe.

"T hey say the big issue is sovereignty," he said. "In fact, it's absolutely clear the big issue for them is their hatred of Europe. That's the truth."

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