TONY Blair has made a desperate last-ditch attempt to thwart Brexit and has revealed plans to make the UK hold another referendum which has been dubbed “elitist”.
The former Prime Minister and arch-Remainer has published a 32-page document titled “Brexit – what we now know” which claims Brexit has already damaged Britain’s economy by hitting productivity, increasing food prices and deterring investment.
The former Labour prime minister launched a major intervention into the Brexit debate on Thursday as he said voters had the right to change their mind over the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
But Mr Blair repeatedly clashed with interviewer John Humphrys as he tried to make his case on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Mr Blair was told by the presenter that his plan to give voters the chance to reverse Brexit – potentially in the form of another referendum or with a general election on the issue – risked provoking “civil disobedience”.
Meanwhile, Norman Lamont, the former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, accused Mr Blair of launching an “attempt to sabotage the result of the referendum”.
Mr Blair has published a lengthy article setting out his Brexit strategy in which he also accused Jeremy Corbyn of adopting a have “cake and eat it” approach to the issue which was “mistaken”.
He has also published a document entitled “What We Now Know” detailing what has been learnt about Brexit since the referendum in 2016.
Mr Blair was told by Mr Humphrys that the British public was offered a clear choice in 2016 to stay or leave the EU as he was asked what he meant by giving people the chance to “rethink” their decision.
Mr Blair said: “But we didn’t at that point when we had the referendum know what the alternative is. In the course of 2018…”
The presenter then interrupted and said: “But we didn’t say to people ‘look, bearing in mind that it could be tricky getting out of the European Union we may have to come back to you which way do you want to vote’. We said ‘do you want to vote, do you want to stay in or do you want to leave?’. They voted to leave.”
Mr Blair insisted that “democracy doesn’t just stop on one day” and that there was nothing wrong with continuing the “democratic debate”.
Mr Humphrys replied: “If you don’t like the result of the referendum you have another one?”
Mr Blair said: “No. If you take the decision on the 23rd of June 2016 and you take it on the basis you want to leave the European Union, you then have a negotiation, you then have the alternative to our present membership of the European Union.
“Once that is put before the people, people are entitled to think again and indeed the common sense would be to say if the circumstances change and we then look at this new relationship and decide on reflection that that new relationship does not offer us a better way forward for the future of the country why shouldn’t we be entitled to think again?”
Mr Blair said voters could be offered “an election on the issue” or a “fresh referendum”.
Mr Humphrys then quoted an anonymous shadow minister who described the former PM’s intervention as “utterly unhelpful” and that voters would read Mr Blair’s piece and think it “sounds like the metropolitan elite ignoring them”.
Mr Blair said “there are elites on both sides of this argument”.
Mr Humphrys then accused Mr Blair of being “tendentious” after Mr Blair argued that the Government does not have enough resources to focus on Brexit and other issues like the NHS.
Mr Blair rejected the accusation.
Mr Lamont told the same programme: “I can think of very few interviews I have heard in my life that are absolutely designed to increase cynicism about politics.
“This was simply an attempt to sabotage the result of the referendum. It was straight out of the EU school of referendums – only vote when you know what the result is going to be, if it is a no have another one, if it’s a yes carry on.”
‘You risk civil disobedience here’: Blair-Humphrys exchange in full
Tony Blair: “I am not disputing that we have had the referendum and I am not disputing the result. I am simply saying that the debate doesn’t stop at that point, that you are entitled to say as you see counter-claim and claim is replaced by fact and you see the actual terms of the new relationship, it is not undemocratic to say we are entitled to think again.
John Humphrys: “What process should be enacted to enable us to think again? You can say yes or no if you like to these things. A second referendum?”
Tony Blair: “Whether it is a second referendum or an election, that is a second order problem, but it would be a fresh referendum which this time – as opposed to 2016 – would be a choice between two alternatives.”
John Humphrys: “And if we don’t like the result of that, might we have a third referendum?”
Tony Blair: “You will in the end decide in that referendum whether the terms that the Government have secured are preferable to the existing European membership. That is not undemocratic.”
John Humphrys: “You risk civil disobedience here, don’t you. This is serious stuff. You really do. If you say to people we are going to give you a referendum and the choice is in or out and we will respect – that was the absolute promise made when the Government sent out its booklet and nobody argued with it – we will accept your decision, you the people, you are now saying ‘actually maybe not’.”
Tony Blair said: “No, I am not saying that. I accept entirely the result of the 2016 referendum. I am simply saying one very, very simple thing which is that in 2016 you knew you wanted to get out of the European Union but you didn’t yet see the terms of the alternative relationship.
“If when you see those terms you think that it is better to stick with Europe you are entitled to have that say.”
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