Gordon Brown said he had never seen the country more divided as he called for the Government to extend Article 50 by a year to consult people on Brexit and give the public the final say.
The former prime minister said Theresa May’s Brexit stalemate has left Britain “more divided than during the three-day week of the 1970s or during the miners’ strike of the 1980s”.
“Never have I seen a Parliament so deadlocked and never have I seen the country so divided and never has there been so much mistrust between who governs and the people of this country,” he added.
Speaking in Edinburgh, Mr Brown suggested having consultations with representative groups across the country to discuss issues such as migration, sovereignty and the NHS and for them to suggest ways to resolve the situation.
“My view is that when Parliament receives the result of that consultation they will find that it’s necessary to renegotiate with the European Union and perhaps in the end put it to the people in a referendum,” he said.
“You cannot solve this problem now by small initiatives – by amending this proposal here or there – you’ve got to look at the big picture.
“We’re talking about the future of Britain, we’re talking about the integrity of Britain, we’re talking about our relationship with the rest of the world and not just Europe.
“What’s clear is that we cannot reunite the country just by another attempted Westminster face-saving fix concocted behind closed doors.
“We cannot rebuild unity without repairing the breakdown of trust across the country, and we cannot move forward without involving the people as well as the politicians.
“The people of Britain must be brought back into this debate.”
Addressing a crowd of about 350 people at a meeting entitled “Brexit – What next?”, Mr Brown condemned the “paralysed and immobilised” Parliament in Westminster and said there was rising anger from the public who want to be involved in the decision-making process.
He warned: “It is the lethal combination of a deadlocked Parliament, an ever-more divided country and the mounting distrust between Parliament and people that makes me fear for our cohesion.”
Mr Brown also backed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to demand the Prime Minister rule out a no-deal Brexit, and said: “She should take no deal off the table – it’s a terrible, catastrophic result to end up with a no deal and end up with businesses at risk, with trade at risk, with the supplies of health service products at risk.
“Of course, the reason why she can’t say that is because her party is divided, with half of them wanting to have a no-deal option and half not.
“She is trying to hold what is basically a very divided party together.
“This spat will be forgotten in a day, the most important thing is we get to a position where people looking at this at home at night can think there is a way forward, because at the moment the Government is offering no way forward.”
Asked about SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s comment that every day of Brexit deadlock in Westminster increases support for Scottish independence, Mr Brown said: “If it is very difficult for Britain to leave the European Union, it is very difficult also for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom.
“So I think people will say ‘yes, we’re frustrated with what’s happening in Westminster, but yes, if one country decides to break with another, there are huge implications’.
“Five times more trade is with England than with the rest of Europe from Scotland and these are big questions about the future of hundreds of thousands of jobs, so I think she should be very careful about what she says
“We see the effects … when one country breaks or tries to break away from established relationships.”