Former British prime minister Tony Blair said Saturday that Britain could remain in the European Union(EU), despite its Brexit referendum vote.
In his biggest intervention yet in the Brexit saga, Blair has outlined his views in an article for his Institute for Global Change. This was followed by a series of high-profile media interviews.
Blair, a strong supporter of Britain remaining with the EU, said “It is absolutely necessary that it doesn’t happen”. Brexit, he said, is the biggest political decision since the Second World War.
According to media reports, Blair said EU leaders would be willing to change their rules on immigration and free movement to enable Britain to stay in the 28-nation trading and economic bloc. But pressed in interviews, he declined to identify the sources who had indicated which leaders he was referring to.
Blair said in interviews that the option of reversing Brexit must be kept on the table, claiming large numbers of the population do not back a so-called hard exit of the EU.
He suggested the will of the people may be changing as the difficulties of Brexit negotiations become apparent. Blair urged a proper debate over the different options, including remaining in a reformed EU.
In his article, Blair outlined his views of the current situation in Britain.
“This time last year we were the fastest growing economy in the G7. We are now the slowest,” he said, “The international investment community is negative on us. The savings rate is at its lowest in 50 years. Incomes are stagnating. The international reputation of Britain is rapidly losing altitude. There is a daily drip of worrying news on Brexit.The Grenfell Tower tragedy sums up for many the sorry condition of our social cohesion.”
He described Britain as feel like a country which has lost its footing and is stumbling, but seemingly with no choice but to stagger on.
“The Macron (French President Emmanuel Macron) victory (in France) changes the political dynamics of Europe. The members of the Euro zone will integrate economic decision-making. Inevitably, therefore, Europe will comprise an inner and outer circle. Reform is now on Europe’s agenda. The European leaders, certainly from my discussions, are willing to consider changes to accommodate Britain, including around freedom of movement,” added Blair, saying the 27 remaining EU members will stick together in defending the rules of the Single Market.
He said rational consideration of the options would sensibly include the option of negotiating for Britain to stay within a Europe itself prepared to reform and “meet us half way”, wrote Blair.
Blair told Sky News Saturday: “I think it’s absolutely necessary that it (Brexit) doesn’t happen because I think every day is bringing us fresh evidence that it’s doing us damage economically, certainly doing us damage politically.”
Blair served as British prime minister for 10 years from 1997, winning a landslide victory that kept the Labour government in power for years.