There’s a trade problem for the U.K. if it follows through on the vote to leave the European Union. Around 50 percent of British trade is with Europe, meaning the U.K. would have to form many new trade partnerships to fill the gaps. That is according to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
“To change the pattern of your trade and get the benefit of these new relationships will take years,” says Brown, who opposed the U.K. leaving the EU.
“What is clear is that we’re not dealing with an anti-European movement. We’re dealing with an anti-globalization movement,” he says.
Brown appeared with fellow Labour Party former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who agreed with that point, saying the Brexit fallout is not just fear of Britain breaking down, but a fear for Europe. Populism exists in many countries with elections coming up, most notably France where Marine Le Pen of the National Front Party is seen by many as the frontrunner in next year’s elections.
“I don’t think Europe will break up, but it’s not an absurd question anymore,” said Blair. “There is a feeling of rebellion and protest. Whichever politician is going to grip that, is going to do well.”
“Even though it was a British decision, doesn’t mean it is purely a British feeling,” he added.
Brown and Blair believe Britain should have stayed and led the way to reform
Moderator Gillian Tett of the Financial Times asked whether either man sees himself as responsible in some way for the Brexit vote, and rampant populism.
Brown stated his position that countries simply cannot go it alone in today’s world. “In the modern world, you’ve got to get the balance right between the autonomy you desire and the cooperation you need,” he said.
Blair highlighted the role of social media in movements gaining steam.
“I think social media is itself a revolutionary phenomenon. It allows movements to grow at speed and at scale that when we started in politics weren’t there. It also increases this debate where people get increasingly polarized on the right and the left and talk to each other,” he said.
See the above video for an edited segment of their discussion.