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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Tony Blair: Young Britons will not forgive Brexit

The former prime minister says the impact of the decision to leave the European Union is already being seen

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair warns that future generations will not forgive Brexit. Stephen Lock for the National
Former UK prime minister Tony Blair warns that future generations will not forgive Brexit. Stephen Lock for the National

Britain is heading towards a historic split from Europe that threatens to plunge the country into an era of low growth and economic pain that future generations will not forgive, former prime minister Tony Blair said on Thursday.

In his latest intervention on the country’s “most important decision” since 1945, Mr Blair called for a second vote on whether the UK should leave the European Union when negotiations between the two sides are concluded.

“We are making an error the contemporary world cannot understand and the generations of the future will not forgive,” wrote Mr Blair on the website of his Institute for Global Change.

Mr Blair has previously called for national elections, or a second referendum, following the vote in June 2016 in which 52 per cent voters backed a split from the 28-nation bloc. Critics of Mr Blair claimed that he was trying to “sabotage” the results of a democratic vote.

Mr Blair has justified a second vote by saying the referendum on leaving the EU was held without a clear idea of what the alternative would be.

“Over the past months the Brexit landscape – hitherto obscured in the fog of claim and counter claim – is being illuminated,” he wrote citing predicted growth forecasts of 1.5 per cent for the next five years.

“This has not happened for over 30 years. This is in addition to the fall in our currency, fall in living standards and now the first falls in employment.”

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Read more:

No second referendum on Brexit at ‘this stage’ says former PM

Tony Blair calls for a second vote on Brexit

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Since the June 2016 vote, the ruling Conservative party – known as the Tories - has been divided on what should replace EU membership.

Some MPs have advocated pushing to remain part of the tariff-free single market while others want a so-called hard Brexit, cutting off all ties with the EU and enabling the UK to set its own independent course on issues such as trade and immigration without EU judicial oversight.

The first stage of talks has been delayed and dogged by disagreements over issues such as the size of the bill to settle the UK’s accounts and the state of the land border between EU-member Ireland and the UK. The government said that the country is due to leave the EU on March 29 next year, with or without a deal in place.

Mr Blair said that Brexit would mean leaving a powerful alternative bloc in an era when the world would be dominated by the United States in the West, and China and India in the East.

“2018 will be the year when the fate of Brexit and thus of Britain will be decided … by 2019, it will be too late,” he wrote.

Mr Blair’s previous calls for a second vote – including in an interview with The National in October – have failed to gain political traction, with both major parties saying they will accept the result of the vote.

Despite Mr Blair’s three election victories as leader of the Labour party and 10-year premiership, his reputation and influence has been tarnished by the decision to back the US-led invasion of Iraq.

His party has also shifted to the left under current leader Jeremy Corbyn and Mr Blair’s influence has waned. Mr Blair accused his party on Thursday of making a tactical error by failing to oppose and reverse the impact of Brexit.

“Make Brexit the Tory Brexit,” he said in his article. “Make them own it 100 per cent.”

The party is challenging key elements of the government’s Brexit plans but Mr Corbyn has previously rebuffed Mr Blair’s call for a second referendum.

Mr Blair’s successor as Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, said that opponents of Brexit should wait for “crisis-point” in negotiations this summer before presenting their alternative to Britain leaving the EU.

Richard Tice, the chairman of pro-Brexit group Leave Means Leave, said that Mr Blair was determined to stop Brexit and “hobble the UK to a very bad deal”.

The former Conservative chancellor Norman Lamont said that Mr Blair’s comments were “pure cynicism” and “simply an attempt to sabotage the result of the referendum”.

“The fact is the so-called advantages of the single market are very much overstated,” he told the BBC. “It was a completely fraudulent argument that he put forward.”

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