Britain and EU should prepare for new referendum: Tony Blair

Britain's former prime minister Tony Blair told European Union leaders they should offer to reform the bloc.
Britain's former prime minister Tony Blair told European Union leaders they should offer to reform the bloc.

LONDON • Former prime minister Tony Blair has said that Britain and the European Union should prepare for a second Brexit referendum because Parliament will probably fail to agree on a divorce deal and the public will need to break the deadlock.

Almost 33.6 million people - a turnout of 72.2 per cent - cast a vote in the June 2016 referendum. The result saw 52 per cent vote to leave the EU and 48 per cent back remaining in the bloc.

Less than four months before Britain is due to leave the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May called off a parliamentary vote on her deal with Brussels this week after admitting it would be heavily defeated.

Addressing EU leaders who were meeting in Brussels yesterday, Mr Blair said they should offer to reform the bloc to make it more attractive for Britain to remain.

"Now should be the time of preparation: Parliament to make sure it can canvass the options in a sensible manner, one by one, to reach agreement on an option or a referendum; Europe to ensure that if Britain is ready to think again, Europe is ready also to think again," Mr Blair, who was Labour prime minister from 1997 to 2007, said in a speech in London.

An offer by the EU to reform would show "that the political leadership of Europe and Britain had listened to the underlying concerns of those who voted (for) Brexit, not disrespecting the concerns but meeting them in a way which is not damaging", he said.

Mr Blair has repeatedly called for reversing Brexit since the 2016 referendum, echoing other critics, including French President Emmanuel Macron, who have suggested that Britain could still change its mind.

 
 

Mr Blair said it is perverse that Britain and the EU are preparing for a potentially economically damaging Brexit without any deal, but not another referendum.

"We know the options for Brexit. Parliament will have to decide on one of them. If Parliament can't, then it should decide to go back to the people."

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2018, with the headline 'Britain and EU should prepare for new referendum: Tony Blair'. Print Edition | Subscribe