Brian Monteith: Bungling Brown’s risky comparison

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There are few countries, if any, more isolated and impoverished than North Korea, but in an article that can only be described as detached from reality, Gordon Brown has claimed that is what the UK could end up like.

It is all part of a co-ordinated attempt to scaremonger the public about leaving the European Union – but all it does is leave open to ridicule the reputation of a politician for whom many still hold a candle.

Gordon Brown’s very words were to repeat the lie that three million UK jobs would be put at risk and, what he branded as “the North Korea option” would leave us “out in the cold with few friends, no influence, little new trade and even less new investment”. So let’s consider those points.

North Korea is ranked as the most unfree country in the world (178th out of 178), it is a closed society with its citizens on rations and often starving. It is politically oppressed by a totalitarian regime that threatens war with its immediate neighbour. It is a living testimony to the failure of collectivism – for south of the 38th parallel its kith and kin in South Korea have become an international success story (ranked 29th).

How does South Korea manage to exist in Gordon Brown’s world? Well, it does not need an outdated customs union with Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia or Japan to become a success – it has traded with all of them – and the rest of the world – while embracing liberal democracy and freedom of the individual.

Taking South Korea as our example, were the UK to leave the European Union, instead of being “out in the cold” and with “few friends”, the UK would, like the USA, Japan and Canada, remain in the G7, remain in Nato and be a leader within the Commonwealth (that includes economic friends such as Australia and South Africa).

Thanks to our cultural, educational and diplomatic relations, and the hugely important fact that English is the business language of the world, the UK (ranked 13th most free) would also remain the world’s leading soft power – ahead of countries such as Germany and France.

Instead of having “no influence”, we would gain greater heft by obtaining our own seat on the World Trade Organisation, World Customs Organisation and other international bodies like the Basel Banking Committee, where we have given our seat at the table over to the EU.

Instead of “little new trade”, we could establish better deals to benefit directly from the 90 per cent of world economic demand that the European Commission itself predicts will come from outside the EU by 2024. We could establish free trade deals with countries like China, the US and Mexico – with whom the EU has been negotiating for years, without success.

Instead of “less investment”, we can expect our brighter economic future from free global trade to attract even greater finance. This is borne out by the fact that the UK is already the leading destination in Europe for foreign direct investment and continues to grow despite knowing that a referendum could take us out of the EU.

Weeks ago I co-authored a pamphlet published by Global Britain, called The Scaremongers, that demonstrated that repeating lies about our relationship with the EU does not make them come true. This week that report was backed-up by another from the Institute of Economic Affairs. By studying the origins of the “three million jobs directly at risk” scare I was able to reveal that the authors of the original research about our relationship with the EU had disowned the outrageous distortions made by politicians such as Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and now Gordon Brown.

If we follow the logic of “jobs at risk”, then EU members such as Germany, France and Italy have far more to lose than the UK from a trade war that could follow Brussels’ politicians throwing a strop. The reality is that it just wouldn’t happen.

The bosses of BMW, Volkswagen, Nissan (essentially French government owned) and others would be queuing up to tell Angela Merkel and François Hollande not to introduce import tariffs on cars made in Britain. Not only would it be bad news for their car exports to the European Union but if Britain followed suit and introduced similar tariffs on all the car parts that come here, those Minis, Bentleys and Qashqais would be priced out of their international markets – like the Minis that go to South Korea.

Such trade wars would be illegal under World Trade Organisation rules that the EU nations have signed up to. It makes no sense to anyone – except Gordon Brown and other politicians who have never worked in the real world of making and selling things.

Britain is successful despite the European Union, not because of it – and can prosper more outside it.

When the old political elite resorts to outrageous scaremongering, we can deduce they’ve run out of rational arguments backed up by robust evidence – and are worried they might lose. Gordon Brown’s outburst is calculated, quite disgracefully, to strike fear into voters’ hearts and minds.

The UK as the North Korea of Europe? More like the South Korean success story, but only better!