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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Former PM Brown urges Labour supporters to vote 'in' on EU

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an impassioned call
Monday for Labour Party supporters to vote to stay in the European Union, amid nervousness in the "remain" camp that it is losing momentum ahead of next week's referendum.

Brown, who governed from 2007 to 2010, said Britain should "lead in Europe" and not leave it.

Polls suggest the June 23 vote on whether to leave the 28-nation bloc could go either way. The "remain" side has stressed the economic uncertainty that would be triggered by quitting, while the "leave" campaign has focused on unease about the large scale of immigration from other EU countries — an approach polls suggest may be reaping rewards.

Brown conceded that globalization and rapid change had made many people anxious and left behind. But he argued that Britain needed to work with its neighbors, not walk away from them.

"The European Union is not the cause of the problem," he said. "If you can get cooperation working, the European Union can be part of the solution to the problem."

Brown's speech is considered significant because his last-minute intervention during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum is credited with bolstering support for remaining part of the United Kingdom.

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Labour leaders are increasingly worried that many of their working-class supporters plan to vote "leave," or are confused about where their party stands. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has long criticized the EU, and some Labour members feel Corbyn has not made a strong case for staying in the bloc.

With just 10 days to go until the vote, other senior Labour figures are stepping up their campaigning.

Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, Hilary Benn, said in a speech Monday that Britain has "always looked beyond our own shores and engaged with the wider world," and argued that leaving the EU "would make us a poorer Britain. A lesser Britain. A less influential Britain."

European Council President Donald Tusk delivered an even starker warning, saying a British exit could start the unraveling of the political system that had dominated Europe for much of the past century.

Tusk told German daily Bild that Brexit "could in fact be the start of the process of destruction of not only the EU but also of the Western political civilization."

"Not only economic implications will be negative for the U.K., but first and foremost geopolitical," he said. "Do you know why these consequences are so dangerous? Because in the long-term they are completely unpredictable."

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