Sunday 17 December 2017

Britain may yet decide not to leave the EU, says Tony Blair

Former British prime minister Tony Blair
Former British prime minister Tony Blair

Laura Hughes in London

Britain can still avoid Brexit and the public have the right to change their minds, Tony Blair has claimed.

The former UK prime minister suggested it was still "possible" to stay in the EU and that Britons were still "free to debate" the UK's position in the world.

During an interview with French radio, Mr Blair said the country still didn't know what "Brexit means".

Asked whether he believed Britain could avoid Brexit, Mr Blair said: "You have to say at the moment that is not probable today."

Speaking in French, he continued: "But, as I have said, the debate continues and I think it's possible, yes. Who makes the rule that we have to end the debate now?"

Challenged on whether he believes Britons were entitled to change their minds, he replied: "Yes. We have the right."

Mr Blair, a committed Europhile, previously tried and failed in 2009 to become EU president.

During the UK referendum campaign, he appeared with the former Conservative prime minister John Major to warn against a Brexit.

Speaking yesterday, he said: "I wasn't in agreement with having a referendum, I didn't think it was necessary, but we have to accept we had a referendum, we had a result, but at the moment the debate is continuing because - as a I said - we don't know what Brexit means.

"What does it mean for the single market, what does it mean for car manufacturers and financial services and bankers and the free movement of people?"

He added that it was necessary to understand that the sentiment expressed in June's vote was not "unique" to Britain.


Mr Blair said that there was "a sentiment throughout Europe - there is a reaction against authority, there is a reaction against globalisation, there is the question of immigration - so it's not just a sentiment (confined to) the English."

He added that it was "not clear right now" when Britain would leave the EU because the period before launching the process of Article 50 "could last a year, for example - definitely some months, and then we'll see the principles of the negotiation".

Mr Blair added: "For the British prime minister, it is absolutely clear that it is necessary for her and the unity of the Conservative Party but for us, we are free to have a debate."

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