Blair needs to change to in­flu­ence Brexit

The Guardian - - JOURNAL -

Tony Blair (Re­port, 18 March) is right to warn about the di­rec­tion in which the May gov­ern­ment and its ul­tra-right ide­o­logues are head­ing. They want a com­plete break from Europe so they can pur­sue their free-wheel­ing, low-tax, post-im­pe­rial ex­per­i­ments. How­ever, if Blair is to con­trib­ute to an ef­fec­tive op­po­si­tion he ur­gently needs to do two things. First, he has to recog­nise that “the bag­gage” he brings in this in­stance is not Iraq, but the free-mar­ket ver­sion of glob­al­i­sa­tion that he, Peter Man­del­son and Gor­don Brown so reck­lessly cham­pi­oned dur­ing his time as prime min­is­ter. This cre­ated the so­cial con­di­tions and in­equal­i­ties which na­tion­al­ist and racist dem­a­gogues and tabloid news­pa­pers have been able to ex­ploit. An ac­knowl­edge­ment that there are other, more so­cial, mod­els of glob­al­i­sa­tion that we should now fol­low would be most wel­come.

Sec­ond, he should drop his di­vi­sive call to re­run the ref­er­en­dum. That is­sue is dead. The key ques­tion now is what re­la­tion­ship will the UK es­tab­lish with Europe. That is where he should fo­cus his en­er­gies. There is a broad al­liance – rang­ing from the Road Haulage As­so­ci­a­tion and large ex­port­ing com­pa­nies to the Greens and SNP – to be built around a soft Brexit, with ac­cess to ei­ther the sin­gle mar­ket or the cus­toms union. Calls for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum merely serve to dis­tract from that task. Only if Blair shifts on these two is­sues does his project have any chance of suc­cess.

Jon Bloom­field Birm­ing­ham

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