A vote to leave the European Union could deprive Britain of a vital “safety net” against “further devastation” at the hands of the Tories, former prime minister Gordon Brown has warned.
The ex-Labour leader told a rally in Glasgow that the EU had provided the UK with funding in the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher’s government had tried to “create an industrial wasteland in Scotland”.
Voters across the UK will decide if the UK remains in the EU or not in a referendum on June 23 with Mr Brown using a rally in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall to speak out in favour of staying in.
He told the audience that the hall they were in had been built in part with European cash, and the EU was providing funds to universities and was helping to pay for other projects, including improvements to the motorway between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Mr Brown said: “I remember the 1980s when the Conservatives tried to create an industrial wasteland in Scotland, I remember the 1980s when there was ‘no such thing as society’.
“I remember the communities where there was despair, which Conservative ministers refused to visit, I remember the desolation in the faces that they chose never to see.
“And do you know what stood between us and even further devastation was European money.
“We must not forget that the European Union stepped in where the Conservative government failed, and it would do so again, and it will have to do so again.
“That’s why we need the safety net and the insurance policy of the European Union.”
Those who support leaving the EU claim to be “defending the British people against Europe,” Mr Brown added.
But he said: “Sometimes Europe has had to defend the British people against the Tories.”
The former Labour leader accepted the UK’s “relationship with Europe hasalways been a difficult one, it has always been an awkward one”.
But he insisted that those who supported Brexit were “looking for someone to blame for problems they are not dealing with”.
Britain has to co-operate with other countries in the EU to deal with issues such as immigration, Mr Brown argued.
Working together with other nations meant “it was Britain that led Europe that led the world to take us out of the global recession”, he added.
“We called the G20 in London because Europe came together,” he added.
“In that one moment you could see the possibility that you could avert a world depression. And you can see what else we can do if we work together.”
Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock also spoke at the rally, which was organised by the Labour Movement for Europe in Scotland.
He dismissed claims that leaving the EU would free up extra hundreds of millions of cash for funding services such as the NHS.
Lord Kinnock said: “All you have to do is to regard the people who are making the promises, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith, Farage.
They have one absolute basic in common, they are all men who have never in their whole lives given priority to public spending on services, on investment or to community needs or to working conditions and workers’ rights, and certainly not to funding the National Health Service.
“They wouldn’t save the NHS, they would squeeze it, they would slice it into privatised pieces, they would strangle it and they would do terrible damage. That is their politics, it always has been, it always will be.”
He stressed that the outcome of the June 23 vote is “far too important to be left to a Tory psycho-drama starring Mr David Cameron and Mr Boris Trump”.
While Lord Kinnock said there was “a body of evidence and serious substantial arguments” that leaving the EU would “wreck” the UK’s economy, he added that the response from those supporting the Leave campaign had been to “whinge and whine about scaremongering”.
He insisted: “Fully assessing the implications of leaving a free market of 500 million consumers, where Britain attract over £40 billion of investment year on year on year is not doom-mongering. It’s risk analysis, it’s security assessment, it’s due diligence, look before you leap.
“No-one should buy a car or a house without doing that, let alone decide the future of their country and their children.”
He continued: “It’s not Project Fear, it’s common sense. But instead of recognising that, the Brexiteers have just offered slogans, very superficial slogans.”