Gordon Brown: It’s irresponsible to talk about a referendum
The five tests were to be used to assess the UK’s readiness to join the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union (EMU), which would have seen the country adopt the euro as its official currency. The first tests were: “Are business cycles and economic structures compatible so that we and others could live comfortably with euro interest rates on a permanent basis? If problems emerge is there sufficient flexibility to deal with them?
“Would joining EMU create better conditions for firms making long-term decisions to invest in Britain?
“What impact would entry into EMU have on the competitive position of the UK’s financial services industry, particularly the City’s wholesale markets?
“In summary, will joining EMU promote higher growth, stability and a lasting increase in jobs?”
When the Labour Party Government led by then-Prime Minister Mr Brown was voted out of office in the 2010 general elections, these tests ceased to be Government policy.
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But writing for British pro-EU weekly newspaper The New European, the Prime Minister’s sister, Rachel Johnson, claimed Ed Balls, who served as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2011 to 2015, played a large part in Brexit occurring.
Mr Balls had been an advisoer to Shadow Chancellor Mr Brown in 1994, and continued this role after Labour won the general election in 1997, eventually becoming the Chief Economic Advisor to the Treasury.
Ms Johnson wrote: “Having nothing else to do I watched Iain Martin, the reasonable voice of EU-scepticism on the Times, interview Robert Tombs, the acceptable and increasingly fashionable face of Leave in academia, on a Zoom event organised by Reaction.
“Apart from a diversion into vaccine nationalism it was a run-around Tombs’ thesis that the EU is another country, they do things differently there, and that joining was a compass error – ie the longer we travelled on our path together the further away from the UK’s desired destination we found ourselves, trade was dropping, as was enthusiasm for the project, und so weiter.
“Tombs is a rara avis who recognises the 2016 referendum was inevitable, because in our case it was possible: we were not part of the Euro and a vote to leave wouldn’t crash the financial system.
“Forget David Cameron, then, and his failed renegotiation!
“As Tombs spoke, I realised who was ultimately responsible for Brexit (nerds will remember we didn’t join the Euro because the “five tests” designed by chancellor Gordon Brown’s special adviser, a former leader writer on the FT).
“You guessed. It was none other than my kitchen nemesis, Ed Balls. Small – and strange – old world.”
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Last month, Mr Brown warned current Prime Minister Mr Johnson he must quickly reform the Union or risk the UK becoming a “failed state”.
The former Prime Minister urged the Conservative Party leader to establish a commission on democracy to review how the UK is governed.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Brown said: “The choice is now between a reformed state and a failed state.”
“The commission will discover that the United Kingdom urgently needs a forum of the nations and regions that brings them and Boris Johnson together on a regular basis.
“No country can have national integration without political inclusion, and the commission might start by learning from the experience of countries like Australia, Canada, Germany and America where, partly because of British influence in times past, second chambers are senates of their regions, and minorities who can easily be outvoted are guaranteed a stronger voice.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has continued to campaign for a second referendum on Scottish independence – more than six years after the country voted to remain part of the UK.
But Mr Johnson has repeatedly rejected those calls and said the result from the referendum in 2014 must be honoured.
This saw Ms Sturgeon last month accuse the Prime Minister of being “frightened of democracy” as she vowed to seek a “legal referendum” on Scottish independence.
Scotland’s First Minister claimed Mr Johnson “fears the verdict and the will of the Scottish people” over his refusal to agree to another independence vote.
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