A senior adviser to Theresa May’s government is facing calls to resign after comparing Brexit with the strategy of appeasement towards Adolf Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s.
Lord Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission and a Labour peer, caused a storm in Parliament when he compared Brexit to Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany and said that its effects will resemble the collapse of the British Empire.
“My language is usually pretty subdued in politics but anyone with a historical sense – and I’m a historian – recognizes that leaving the economic institutions of the European Union, which have guided our destiny as a trading nation for half a century, is a very big step and the importance can’t be over-emphasized.
“To my mind, it’s as big a step that we’re taking as a country as decolonization in the 1950s and ’60s and appeasement in the 1930s.
“We got it right on decolonization, we got it wrong on appeasement and I think we’re in serious danger of getting it wrong in the way that we leave the EU.
Speaking to the House magazine, Adonis said that leaving the EU will considerably undermine the British economy.
“If we can’t have our cake and eat it then we face a serious relative decline in our living standards compared with France and Germany and I don’t believe the British people will put up with that.
“So we would, in that event, I believe face a crisis. It may be a crisis played out over quite a number of years – which, after all, is what happened with appeasement – but there will be a crisis.
“It’s important for political leaders like me to sound the alarm bell because it’s important to understand what might be at stake: in 18 months’ time, people may require visas to go to France.
“Can you imagine what the Great British public is going to think?
Adonis’s comments were negatively received by Conservative MPs, including Peter Bone, who demanded his resignation.
“Words almost fail me,” Bone told the Mail Online. “First of all, to suggest that what this government is doing is in any way related to appeasement is outrageous.”
“What we are doing is taking power back to this country from a European superstate, not giving power to a European fascist empire.
“Using this sort of appalling language is wrong, his arguments are wrong and his tone is wrong.
“And if he is a government appointed chairman of some quango then he should go – he should either resign tonight and if he doesn’t he should be fired tomorrow,” Bone said.
Adonis, however, stood by his comments on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, arguing that “leaving the European Union is clearly going to have very, very serious economic consequences.”
“The point I am making is that it is the worst economic mistake we will have made in this generation, if we do leave and do the ‘hard’ Brexit.
“If we were to do the ‘hard’ Brexit, than I do believe that this would be the worst mistake that this country has made since the appeasement in the 1930s and it will impoverish millions of working people,” he concluded.