November 7, 2018

Tony Blair will do “everything” he can to stop Brexit

By Robert Scammell

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he “will do everything” he can to stop Brexit, and that he backs a second referendum.

Speaking in an interview on stage at Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon, he said “I am 100% opposed to Brexit. “Up to the very end, I am going to do everything I can to stop it.”

He added that it is still possible to stop the process of leaving the EU.

If Theresa May gets a deal and Parliament votes it down, Blair said the alternatives are a general election, a “fresh vote for the people” or leaving without a deal.

He said that a general election is “highly unlikely” because of the current position of the Conservative party – “unless they are feeling highly suicidal”.

A ‘no deal’ scenario is “absurd”, he claimed, which leaves a people’s vote, an option he insists is “not undemocratic”.

“In the two years and more since we had that vote, our knowledge of what it means has been hugely enlarged,” he explained.

A recent Chanel 4 poll found that 54% would now vote to remain, a 6% swing on the 48% that voted to remain in the 2016 referendum.

Tony Blair: There are “five different types of Brexit”

Blair said that there are “five different types of Brexit” and described leaving the EU while still adhering to its rules as the “pointless Brexit”.

The other option is leaving the single market and customs union altogether, which he describes as the “painful Brexit”.

“So you’ve got pointless vs painful and neither is a good idea,” he said.

He also warned about the potential impact leaving the EU would have on Britain’s tech sector.

“How is Britain seriously going to benefit when we are strong in the tech sector today by pulling ourselves out of the EU digital market,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

Populist distraction a tragedy

Blair added that the populist wave is distracting people from the bigger questions surrounding the disruptive impact of technology.

“The single biggest change that’s going to happen in the world today is this technological revolution,” he said.

“And the real role of politicians today is to understand it, to seize its opportunities, to mitigate its risks, to prepare for it, to prepare our people for it.

“And the tragedy is that right at the moment when we need this debate about how we deal with this revolution, you have a right-wing focused on attacking migrants and a left focused on attacking business – and neither is the way forward to the future.”

He offered an alternative way forward in which smaller nations with shared values, such as Britain, Germany and France, stick together, particularly in light of the “rising power of China”.

However, he said that he will not be making a return to British politics and that there are better-qualified people to lead British politics than himself today.

“One of the reasons why this tech thing is so important and why I’m so convinced that this is central to the whole of the questions that we are discussing, is if we want to map a way out of this populism, left or right, we’ve got to show people an optimistic way to the future.”

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