`Brexit' Akin to Unilateral Disarmament, David Miliband Says

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  • EU `multiplies British power, British ideas, British values'
  • IMF warns of `severe' damage to world economy of a Brexit

Would ‘Brexit’ Really be a ‘Disarmament’ Moment for U.K.?

Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband compared leaving the European Union to unilateral disarmament, saying Britain would lose influence if it votes to quit the 28-nation bloc.

U.K. diplomacy, security, defense and power are multiplied by being in the EU and a so-called “Brexit” would be a “tragic miscalculation which weakens ourselves,” Miliband, now chief executive officer of the International Rescue Committee in New York, said Tuesday in a speech in London, according to remarks e-mailed by the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign.

“Now is not the time for unilateral political disarmament,” the former Labour lawmaker said. “No nation in human peacetime history, never mind Britain, has voluntarily given up as much political power as we are being invited to throw away on June 23.”

With polls suggesting that the referendum remains too close to call, politicians on both sides of the debate are ramping up their rhetoric. The vote has split the ruling Conservative Party, with four of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative cabinet opposing their leader by campaigning to leave.

Miliband, who served in the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, quit British politics three years ago after losing out to his brother, Ed, in the fight for the leadership of the party in 2010. He said his speech was given in a “personal capacity” and not as head of the IRC, which “does not take sides.”

“David Miliband talks of political disarmament but appears to have conveniently forgotten his leading role in the Blair government that relentlessly surrendered national powers to the EU, gave away billions from the British rebate, campaigned to scrap the pound and failed to retain control over our borders,” Employment Minister Priti Patel said in a statement e-mailed by the Vote Leave campaign. “Voters will be in no mood for lectures from someone who was wrong then on the EU and is wrong now.”

As Miliband prepared to speak, the International Monetary Fund cut its 2016 U.K. growth forecast to 1.9 percent from 2.2 percent, warning of “severe” damage to the world economy and disruption to trade if Britons vote to leave the EU.

“The character of our country, our place in the world, as well as our material wealth, are on the ballot paper,” Miliband said. “Rather than limit or diminish us, the European Union multiplies British power, British ideas and British values.”