Lord Adonis: Brexit could be the UK's biggest mistake since appeasing Hitler

Written by Josh May on 14 July 2017 in News

The Labour peer also compared the decision to leave the EU to the break-up of the British Empire

Lord Adonis - Image credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Brexit could be the UK's biggest mistake since appeasing Hitler in the 1930s, according to a former Labour cabinet minister.

Lord Adonis also compared the decision to leave the EU to the break-up of the British Empire.

And he warned that quitting the EU could lead to "a serious relative decline in our living standards compared with France and Germany".

He made his stark predictions in an interview with The House magazine.


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The peer, who was Transport Secretary under Gordon Brown and also served on Tony Blair's frontbench, said Britain must try to retain membership of the EU single market and customs union after Brexit.

He said: "My language is usually pretty subdued in politics but anyone with a historical sense – and I’m a historian – recognises that leaving the economic institutions of the European Union, which have guided our destiny as a trading nation for half a century, is a very big step and the importance can’t be over-emphasised.

"To my mind, it’s as big a step that we’re taking as a country as decolonisation in the 1950s and 60s and appeasement in the 1930s.

"We got it right on decolonisation; we got it wrong on appeasement and I think we’re in serious danger of getting it wrong in the way that we leave the EU."

He added: “If we can’t have our cake and eat it then we face a serious relative decline in our living standards compared with France and Germany and I don’t believe the British people will put up with that.

“So we would, in that event, I believe face a crisis. It may be a crisis played out over quite a number of years – which, after all, is what happened with appeasement – but there will be a crisis.

“It’s important for political leaders like me to sound the alarm bell because it’s important to understand what might be at stake: in 18 months’ time, people may require visas to go to France.

“Can you imagine what the Great British public is going to think?”

Lord Adonis claimed that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were both “natural eurosceptics”, and that was driving the Labour party’s reluctance to push for single market membership.

While stressing that he was not questioning the Labour leader’s position, he suggested Mr Corbyn was at odds with the majority of Labour voters in holding that stance.

The peer added: “I’ve got great respect for the positions that he holds. But I do believe that the majority view inside the party is also in favour of remaining inside the single market and the customs union.

“And I believe that we can have our cake and eat it. We can have Jeremy as leader and we can remain committed to the single market.”

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