Blair, Brown Lead Labour Leaders in Backing U.K. Remain Campaign

  • Say UK’s EU membership helps workers, fights climate change
  • Defence secretary says Asian governments concerned by Brexit

Six former U.K. Labour Party leaders including former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown on Saturday urged the British to vote in favor of remaining in the European Union in the June 23 referendum.

U.K. membership in the EU has provided job protection, lower prices and significant benefits for working people, the leaders said Saturday in a joint statement. The six, which also included Neil Kinnock, Margaret Beckett, Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband, spoke as the party began a drive to register people before Tuesday’s deadline.

“Europe protects people at work, stimulates jobs and innovation, keeps prices lower, leads global action against climate change, makes us safer against terrorism, and magnifies Britain’s voice and values,” the leaders said. “We understand our party’s value and its people. Each are strengthened by Britain being in Europe.”

Polls have suggested the battle is tightening ahead of the vote on a so-called Brexit, and that warnings by the government, led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, about the threat to the economy aren’t having an impact. While the “Remain” side has concentrated on saying jobs will be lost if Britain exits, the “Leave” side has fought on immigration.

Sunday Rallies

Labour leaders will appear Sunday at rallies across Britain, with Kinnock headlining an event in London.

“If Labour stays at home, Britain leaves,” the leaders said.. “And a vote to leave is a vote for a profound and permanent loss the whole country would feel, whether through lost jobs or lost generations.”

For a QuickTake explainer on the Brexit debate, click here.

U.K. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon on Saturday said the prospect withdrawing from the EU is causing concerns among his counterparts in Asia, where he was taking part in the 12-nation Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

“I’ve yet to meet with a fellow defense minister who isn’t concerned at the possibility of a Brexit and who doesn’t understand that that would weaken our collective security,” Fallon told reporters on the sidelines of the security forum.

“It would be a very odd thing for Britain to start walking out of international organizations,” he said. “On the contrary, I think many countries still look to Britain to lead, or behind the scenes to steer, many of these groupings.”

‘Project Lies’

A leader of the Leave campaign, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, defended the group’s assertions about the costs of membership as he was accused of running “Project Lies.”

Appearing on a Sky News television special on Friday night, Gove was challenged repeatedly about Vote Leave’s statement that the U.K. sends 350 million pounds ($500 million) a week to the EU, with the first questioner from the audience using the phrase “Project Lies” frequently. The figure has been called “misleading” by the U.K. Statistics Authority and “absurd” by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

“We give more than 350 million pounds to Brussels,” Gove said. “Now we do get some of that money back. It’s important to acknowledge that. But the truth is that we cannot count on that rebate. I fear that if we vote to remain, that rebate will only be reduced further.”

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