A launch event for Robert Tombs’ latest book This Sovereign Isle led to a cheeky allegation about the parentage of Brexit. Outlining the reasons for us having exited the European Union, the author flagged Britain’s retention of the pound as a “decisive difference” between us and other member states.
“If there is a reason that explains Brexit it is surely that,” he told the event hosted by the think tank Policy Exchange. “Every other issue is secondary, simply because once one is in the euro leaving it becomes extremely risky, not only to national finances and to a national economy, but to everyone’s savings in the bank. And for that reason I think one can regard Gordon Brown as the father of Brexit.”
As chancellor in Tony Blair’s government, Brown played a key role in blocking our participation in the eurozone. Writing in his account of the financial crisis, Brown said he would have resigned over the issue on which he “stood virtually alone in the cabinet.”
Since the referendum Tombs has emerged as a leading pro-Brexit historian, with his new book offering what is often seen as a partisan account of our relationship with the continent. Speaking at the same event, former home secretary Amber Rudd disputed the interpretation, also arguing that remainers had sought a “peaceful resolution” on implementing the referendum result.
Also at the event:
- Rudd argued that leaving was a men’s project, with leavers more likely to agree that women’s liberation had gone too far
- Peter Mandelson, former Northern Ireland secretary, argued that the province “can never work” if the relationship between Britain and the EU is broken
- Although an opponent of Brexit, Mandelson conceded that Britain had replaced the “weight” of the EU with the “nimbleness” of being an independent state, for example on regulatory issues
- Cabinet Office minister David Frost argued that as a civil servant he felt EU membership “had produced a kind of institutional paralysis and learned failure in many areas”, with Whitehall waiting for input from Brussels to solve problems
- Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove provocatively compared the EU to an “empire”, citing previous examples of nation state rebellions in the Dutch republic, American revolution and collapse of the Soviet Union