Britain 'like North Korea' if we quit EU, warns Gordon Brown

Former prime minister says UK would be 'in the cold' with few friends and no influence

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What would life be like in Britain if we quit the EU? It would be like North Korea, according to Gordon Brown.

Ahead of an EU debate in the Commons today, the former prime minister warns that the UK would be “left out in the cold with few friends, [with] no influence” – just like Kim Jong-un’s pariah state in the far east– if voters decided to leave the EU.

He said people were sleepwalking towards a Brexit because they felt it was the only way to show their patriotism for the UK – just like Scots drifted towards independence. He accused Nigel Farage of framing the referendum as “a more basic emotional choice: are you for Britain or are you for Europe?” He also claimed Ukip was guilty of peddling a “culture war” that blames foreigners and immigrants for economic insecurity.

Writing in the Guardian, Mr Brown wrote: “We must talk about how the Hong Kong option – “leaving Europe to join the world” – is really the North Korea option, out in the cold with few friends, no influence, little new trade and even less new investment. And, of course, we must champion European reform as Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander have, avoiding the trap of pro-Europeans representing the status quo and anti-Europeans representing change.

"We must tell the truth about the 3 million jobs, 25,000 companies, £200bn of annual exports and £450bn of inward investment linked to Europe; and how the 'Britzerland' or Norwegian alternatives (even Norwegians oppose the Norwegian option) leave us subject to EU rules, but denied a vote in shaping them."

Brown’s comments are likely to cause similar accusations of hyperbole that Ukip themselves have been accused of. Several senior Tories have said they would be prepared to campaign for the UK to leave the UK. Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, said the Conservative party would be willing to campaign for a Brexit if they failed to renegotiate its membership. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, commissioned a report last year that concluded a withdrawal is “definitely a viable option for the UK”.

David Cameron has pledged an EU referendum in 2017 if the Tories win the election and has hinted he would be happy for it to be held earlier, but with the Liberal Democrats opposed, the issue is likely to be a contentious point in any negotiations over a second coalition between the parties. Labour is also opposed unless significant new powers are transferred to Brussels.

Brown also accused the coalition’s policy towards the EU had already left Britain “half-in half-out” of the EU and a “semi-detached and disengaged empty chair” that has made Britain “weaker than ever”.