LONDON (Reuters) - Britain would become the North Korea of Europe if the country leaves the European Union with no friends or influence, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has warned.
Brown said Britain was on course to overtake Germany as Europe's most powerful economy in the next decade, but this would be jeopardized by an EU exit, while Prime Minister David Cameron's current "half-in half-out" stance had already weakened the country's international relevance on issues such as Ukraine.
"We must tell the truth about the 3 million jobs, 25,000 companies, 200 billion pounds of annual exports and 450 billion pounds of inward investment linked to Europe," Brown wrote in an article for the Guardian newspaper published on Tuesday.
"And we must talk about how the Hong Kong option - 'leaving Europe to join the World' - is really the North Korea option, out in the cold with few friends, no influence, little new trade and even less investment."
Cameron has promised to hold an in/out referendum on Britain's EU membership by the end of 2017 if his Conservative Party wins an election on May 7.
Brown's Labour Party, running neck and neck with Conservatives in most polls, has said it will not offer such a referendum unless there is a substantial shift of powers from London to Brussels.
An opinion poll last month found support for Britain remaining in the EU at its highest level for four years, with 45 percent in favor of staying in the bloc opposed to 35 percent against.
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge