Blair urges MPs to vote down any Brexit deal and push for a new ref­er­en­dum

For­mer Labour leader says that there is no out­come Theresa May can se­cure that will be good for the coun­try. Toby Helm re­ports

The Observer - - News -

Tony Blair is urg­ing all MPs to vote down what­ever Brexit deal Theresa May presents to par­lia­ment and to push in­stead for an­other ref­er­en­dum, warn­ing that if they fail to do so there will be a back­lash from vot­ers that will last a po­lit­i­cal life­time.

Writ­ing in to­day’s Ob­server, the ex­prime min­is­ter, who won three gen­eral elec­tions as Labour leader, says there is now no out­come May can se­cure that can be good, or even rea­son­able, for the coun­try.

“We are ap­proach­ing Brexit crunch time,” he writes. “Ev­ery­one is go­ing to come un­der in­tense pres­sure to agree a ‘rea­son­able deal’, Labour MPs es­pe­cially. They should re­sist. There is no ‘rea­son­able deal’. There is the point­less, the painful or fudge through post­pone­ment of the core is­sues. Each op­tion is bad. MPs should vote it down and give the peo­ple the fi­nal say.”

With ex­pec­ta­tions ris­ing that a deal may only be weeks away, and that the prime min­is­ter could put the out­come to a vote in par­lia­ment be­fore Christ­mas, Blair says that rather than be­ing afraid of vot­ing it down, Labour and other MPs should be more wor­ried about the con­se­quences of in­flict­ing a bad out­come on an elec­torate that would prove un­for­giv­ing.

De­scrib­ing May’s Che­quers plans as “mad­ness”, he writes: “Time has not less­ened my sense of the cat­a­strophic ef­fects of Brexit. It has in­creased it. MPs should vote against the deal, while say­ing to their con­stituents: ‘We can­not, in all con­science, agree with this, but the fi­nal de­ci­sion is yours.’ ”

He adds: “I prom­ise them as some­one who used to win elec­tions: no one will lose their seat on this ba­sis. But vote through a botched ne­go­ti­a­tion that you don’t be­lieve in and the back­lash will last a po­lit­i­cal life­time.”

Blair ar­gues that the gov­ern­ment has tabled a se­ries of “in­com­pat­i­ble de­mands” which has led to an ne­go­ti­at­ing im­passe. “They want a fric­tion­less border in Ire­land. That can only hap­pen if North­ern Ire­land re­mains in the cus­toms union and sin­gle mar­ket, at least for goods and agric­ula

‘Vote through a botched ne­go­ti­a­tion that you don’t be­lieve in and the back­lash will last a life­time’ Tony Blair

tu­ral prod­ucts. But they want the UK to leave the cus­toms union and sin­gle mar­ket.

“How­ever, they also want North­ern Ire­land and Britain to be in the same re­la­tion­ship to Europe as each other. And they made a rash com­mit­ment last De­cem­ber that the North­ern Ire­land is­sue would be re­solved as a part of the with­drawal agree­ment, with the border fric­tion­less and with back­stop to guar­an­tee it. There is sim­ply no an­swer to the Ir­ish is­sue.”

Blair’s com­ments came as the cam­paign for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum re­ceived a fur­ther boost when more than 50 busi­ness lead­ers signed a let­ter call­ing for an­other vote. Sig­na­to­ries in­cluded the chief ex­ec­u­tive of book­store chain Water­stones and the for­mer boss of su­per­mar­ket Sains­bury’s, Justin King.

Mean­while, a new study by YouGov for the Peo­ple’s Vote cam­paign sug­gests a clear ma­jor­ity of vot­ers in bat­tle­ground seats would sup­port the de­mand for peo­ple to be given the fi­nal say on the out­come of the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The study shows that the 67 Con­ser­va­tive MPs with ma­jori­ties un­der 5,000 are all in con­stituen­cies where there is a ma­jor­ity in favour of a Peo­ple’s Vote. The aver­age sup­port for the pub­lic be­ing given the fi­nal say in these seats is 56% – com­pared with 44% against – when “don’t knows” are ex­cluded.

In each seat, the num­ber of Con­ser­va­tive vot­ers who back a Peo­ple’s Vote is sig­nif­i­cantly big­ger than their MP’s ma­jor­ity at the last elec­tion. Vot­ers in Labour’s top 100 tar­get seats – in­clud­ing those that it needs to win if it is to form a gov­ern­ment with a work­able Com­mons ma­jor­ity – also back a Peo­ple’s Vote by an aver­age mar­gin 58% to 42%.

Yes­ter­day, the Ir­ish prime min­is­ter, Leo Varad­kar, said that Brexit had un­der­mined the Good Fri­day agree­ment that brought peace to North­ern Ire­land and strained re­la­tions be­tween Britain and Ire­land.

Pho­to­graph by Dan Kit­wood/Getty

There is no ‘rea­son­able’ Brexit deal, in­sists the for­mer prime min­is­ter Tony Blair.

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