Tony Blair’s new mis­sion: Brexit re­ver­sal

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

For­mer Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair launched a cam­paign Fri­day to per­suade the U.K. to re­think its de­ci­sion to leave the Euro­pean Union, say­ing those who want to re­main should rise up and make their wishes known.

Blair ar­gued that the Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment’s drive to leave the EU “at any cost” will hurt fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and dam­age the unity of the coun­try it­self.

Last year’s vote to leave the 28-na­tion bloc was “based on im­per­fect knowl­edge” and Bri­tons made their de­ci­sion with­out knowing the true terms of Brexit, he said in a speech in Lon­don.

“As th­ese terms be­come clear, it is their right to change their mind,” said Blair, the for­mer Labour leader. “Our mis­sion is to per­suade them to do so.”

Blair’s in­ter­ven­tion re­flects the bit­ter di­vide that has gripped Bri­tain since the June 23 ref­er­en­dum. While 51.9 per cent voted to leave the EU, the terms were not spec­i­fied and Con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May has been re­luc­tant to dis­cuss her plans fear­ing it will hurt the U.K.’s bar­gain­ing po­si­tion.

Many in this coun­try of 64 mil­lion have ex­pressed dis­quiet at the po­ten­tial con­se­quences.

“They will say we don’t rep­re­sent the peo­ple. We do, many mil­lions of them, and with de­ter­mi­na­tion, many mil­lions more,” Blair said. “They will claim we’re di­vid­ing the coun- try by mak­ing the case. It is they who di­vide our coun­try - generation from generation, North from South, Scot­land from Eng­land, those born here from those who came to our coun­try pre­cisely be­cause of what they thought it stood for and what they ad­mired.”

Blair spoke on be­half of Open Bri­tain, which is cam­paign­ing for the gov­ern­ment’s Brexit leg­is­la­tion to be amended to en­sure that Par­lia­ment has “proper scru­tiny” over any deal May ne­go­ti­ates with EU lead­ers. Among the group’s goals is for Bri­tain to re­main part of the bloc’s sin­gle mar­ket, guar­an­tee­ing un­fet­tered ac­cess to 500 mil­lion peo­ple.

May has of­fered only broad out­lines of her strat­egy, with re­duc­ing im­mi­gra­tion a pri­or­ity. She has ar­gued that she must keep the Euro­peans guess­ing about the U. K.’ s ne­go­ti­a­tion po­si­tion, but pres­sure for de­tails has been build­ing as she pre­pares to in­voke Ar­ti­cle 50, which will trig­ger Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the bloc.

While sup­port­ers op­pose any at­tempt to slow the drive to­ward Brexit, call­ing that un­demo­cratic, Blair ar­gued that the peo­ple have a right to change their minds. The leave cam­paign ben­e­fited from a mood of revolt stem­ming in part from changes in the global econ­omy, but such opin­ions aren’t set in stone, he said.

“The Brex­i­teers were the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of this wave. Now they want to freeze it to a day in June 2016,” he said. “They will say the will of the peo­ple can’t al­ter. It can. They will say leav­ing is in­evitable. It isn’t.”

AP PHOTO

For­mer Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair makes a speech at an Open Bri­tain event in cen­tral Lon­don, Fri­day.

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