Gordon Brown has warned against the rise of political movements demanding to “take back control”, claiming that independence was difficult to achieve in an increasingly globalised world.
The former prime minister told an audience in Madrid they should heed the warning of Brexit - an event he feared would leave the UK “poorer” - and that voters could see through “slogans” which could not be implemented.
His comments were viewed by some sections of the Spanish press as a warning to Catalonia following the hugely controversial referendum on October 1 organised by the north-eastern Spanish region’s devolved government, a process which was later ruled illegal and led to the assembly being suspended.
Eight former ministers of the regional government were subsequently remanded in custody over fears they could abscond after former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium.
Mr Brown was speaking on Thursday at a Europe Without Borders conference organised by El Confidencial, a Spanish news website, and investment management firm Pimco.
He said economic integration was under threat across Europe despite leading to record levels of prosperity for millions.
“In a world economy, your independence is always going to be limited by your interdependence,” the former MP for Kirkcaldy said.
“We are interconnected and integrated. The idea you can just walk away from that is an impossibility in the modern world.”
Mr Brown added economic integration across the continent was possible while also respecting individual cultures and traditions - but this had not been properly discussed ahead of Brexit in June 2016.
“The problem with our referendum on Europe was on the one side you had those saying people would be worse off, with no explanation of why Europe was a good thing, and on the other side you had a fear of immigration,” he said.
“If the argument had been properly put we would have won that referendum.”