Former British prime minister Tony Blair confirmed last month that he is trying to stop the UK leaving the European Union in March 2019 and has been speaking out against Brexit again today, calling for a second Brexit referendum.
Blair, who led the Labour party between 1994 and 2007, said the party should back his call for a second Brexit referendum, arguing that ordinary Labour voters’ problems will not be resolved by Brexit.
Labour has backed Brexit and ruled out a second referendum if it wins power, with its current leader, the Eurosceptic Jeremy Corbyn accepting the 52 percent majority referendum result and pushing for the government to move towards a softer Brexit.
The Labour party gained seats in last year’s general election with its tacit support for Brexit, coupled with criticism of the Tory implementation and a focus on domestic issues.
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has said Labour plans to push for a deal with the EU that would preserve as many of the benefits of the single market and customs union as possible, as well as protecting workers’ rights and the environment.
Blair, speaking on the BBC Today programme, said:
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You’re either close to Europe in which case you have to obey the rules, or you’re far away in a kind of Canada-style free trade agreement in which case you’ve got a big process of economic restructuring. In my view, the Labour party doesn’t believe the answer to the problems of Leave voters is Brexit.
Far better to fight for the right for the country to re-think, demand that we know the full details of the new relationship before we quit the old one, go to the high ground on opposing Brexit and go after the Tories for their failures to tackle the country’s real challenges.
Make Brexit the Tory Brexit. Make them own it 100 percent. Show people why Brexit isn’t, and never was, the answer.
Blair said he accepts the result of the 2016 referendum but in 2016 people did not know what the alternative was and when people see the terms of Brexit they are entitled to think again.
Former British ambassador to US and chairman of UK’s Press Complaints Commission tweeted that Blair’s comments showed the UK remains divided between those who accept the Brexit referendum result and those who don’t.
Blair on @BBCr4today underlined yet again that real divide in UK not between Remainers and Leavers but between those who accept the referendum result and those who don’t. The latter have vested interest in negotiations’ failure.
— Christopher Meyer (@SirSocks) January 4, 2018
Blair on allegations he warned Trump aids the UK was spying on them
Blair was also asked about allegations published in the Times newspaper today suggesting he warned US president Donald Trump’s aides that British intelligence may have spied on them during the election, according to an explosive new book by author Michael Wolff.
The former prime minister met Jared Kushner, son-in-law to Donald Trump and a senior aide, at the White House last February but Blair dismissed the claims made in the book, calling them “literally an invention”.
Wolff claimed Blair shared a “juicy rumour” during his meeting with Kushner — “that the British had had the Trump campaign staff under surveillance, monitoring its telephone calls and other communications and possibly even Trump himself”.
People have raised questions around other allegations made in the book — which has been detailed in a New York Magazine article — suggesting they read like a novelisation or dramatisation of events, rather than a factual portrayal.