Angus Robertson, whose German mother came to the UK as a refugee after the Second World War, said peace and security in Europe was being “taken for granted” in the debate on EU membership.
Mr Robertson said communities had been “hoodwinked” into blaming immigration and the EU for their problems, and appealed for a Remain vote to protect the UK’s place in the single market.
“The impact of a Brexit vote in the UK is not just a decision that will impact on the UK,” Mr Roberston told The Scotsman. “It will impact on the rest of the EU. I think it will unleash forces which will be destructive and problematic.”
He said the Leave campaign was “misleading” the public that a better EU trade deal could be negotiated, but warned “Eurosceptic movements in other parts of Europe” would be galvanised if voters put faith in that claim.
“If they think that simply by holding a referendum and saying ‘We’ve had enough of Brussels’, that is going to leave you with all the advantages, and that there will be no downside, I think that is a recipe for real difficulty across Europe,” Mr Robertson said. “Other European countries understand that is the case. The stakes are very high for Scotland, for the UK, and the rest of the EU.”
He added: “The EU is long past time for reform – but reform, rather than its dismantling without any idea of what would replace it.”
Austria, where Mr Robertson worked for ten years as a journalist, narrowly avoided becoming the first EU country to elect a far-right head of state when Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer lost a knife-edge run-off vote. In France, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen has spoken in favour of Brexit, saying it would help break up the EU. Polls suggest she could make it into a run-off for the presidency next year.
Disaffection with government among the “precariat” has spilled over into support for Brexit, Mr Roberston said. “There has been an attempt to hoodwink people into believing there is a simple solution to a set of complicated problems,” he said, adding it was “misguided” to claim Brexit would cut migration.
Mr Roberston said it was “really disappointing that elements of the European debate that I think are crucially important have not been afforded the consideration that they should. We take for granted that we’ve been able to live in a Europe where the member states of the EU have never been in conflict with one another.”
He dismissed headlines suggesting “World War III” would follow Brexit, but added: “Given Europe’s history, and given my personal background, I have a very strong feeling that we should not overlook or take for granted the fact that we have been able to work together and have disagreements about issues.”