Tony Blair: Options must stay open on Brexit

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at 2016.10.28
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Tony Blair: Options must stay open on Brexit

The UK should keep its “options open” over Brexit, Tony Blair has said, adding that he does not rule out another referendum on the subject.

The former prime minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was vital to study the “real-life implications”.

Mr Blair said he respected the verdict of June’s referendum, but recommended looking again at Brexit when “we have a clear sense of where we’re going”.

In June’s referendum, 51.9% of voters opted in favour of leaving the EU.

The government has promised to invoke Article 50 – setting formal talks with the EU in motion – by the end of March next year.

‘Substantial gains?’

But Mr Blair told Today that he believed the Brexit vote was a “catastrophe” and argued that it was important that the views of the “16 million” people who had backed remaining in the EU should not be ignored.

He added that he would not rule out a parliamentary vote, a general election or a second referendum on Brexit at some stage.

“There’s no reason why we should close off any options,” he said.

Adding that it was unclear what the outcome of negotiations, in terms of restrictions of movement of people and access to the single market, would be, he said: “We will start to see the real-life implications of this decision to go.”

Running commentary

Mr Blair added: “We’ve got to work out: are the freedoms that we are going to gain really so substantial that we want to leave the European Union?”

He warned of talks with the EU: “I’m convinced that it’s going to be very, very tough. We have to understand we are not going to be conducting these negotiations with a group of European businessmen who might well decide that they want maximum access to the UK…

“The people we are going to be conducting these negotiations with are the political leaders of the European Union and their parliaments.”

“I’m arguing we should keep our options open,” he said.

The UK government says it will not provide a “running commentary” on its stance before negotiations for leaving the European Union begin.

It has promised to make Brexit work for the whole country. Supporters of leaving the EU argue it will free the UK up to trade better globally and give the government better control of immigration.

Mr Blair was prime minister between 1997 and 2007. After stepping down, he served as a Middle East envoy for eight years.

He announced last month that he was winding up most of his commercial ventures to focus on not-for-profit work.

Earlier this month Mr Blair told Esquire magazine he was considering whether there was a “role” for him in politics, having not been actively involved for almost a decade.

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Published at Fri, 28 Oct 2016 08:41:30 +0000

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