‘LEAVING ISN’T INEVITABLE’ Tony Blair calls for Remoaners to ‘rise up’ against Brexit – but admits Britain WOULD thrive on its own outside EU
Ex-PM used big speech to slam Theresa May for putting the British economy at risk through a so-called ‘hard Brexit’
CHIEF Remoaner Tony Blair has been blasted as “out of touch, elitist and anti-democratic” after urging pro-EU Brits to “rise up and fight Brexit at any cost”.
The ex-PM used a big speech this morning to slam Theresa May for putting the British economy at risk through a so-called ‘hard Brexit’.
But he admitted the UK would still be able to thrive on its own, saying: “Of course Britain can and would survive out of the EU.
“This is a great country, with resilient and creative people. And yes, no one is going to write us off, nor should they.
“But making the best of a bad job doesn’t alter the fact that it isn’t smart to put yourself in that position unless you have to.”
And he told his fellow Europhiles it is their “mission” to persuade Brexit voters to change their mind about wanting to leave the EU.
Mr Blair issued another rallying cry against the referendum vote, which was “based on imperfect knowledge”, and will cause “real damage” to Britain and the embitterment of future generations.
At an Open Britain event in Central London, Mr Blair said: “The road we’re going down is not simply ‘hard Brexit’. It is Brexit at any cost.”
The former Labour leader is calling “on all pro-Europeans to come together” in the clearest hint yet he wishes to return to domestic politics in some capacity.
He said: “I want to be explicit. Yes, the British people voted to leave Europe.
“And I agree the will of the people should prevail. I accept right now there is no widespread appetite to re-think.
“But the people voted without knowledge of the true terms of Brexit. As these terms become clear, it is their right to change their mind.
“Our mission is to persuade them to do so.”
He added: “The Brexiteers were the beneficiaries of this wave; now they want to freeze it to a day in June 2016.
“They will say the will of the people can’t alter. It can. They will say Leaving is inevitable. It isn’t.
“They will say we don’t represent the people. We do, many millions of them and with determination many millions more.
“They will claim we’re dividing the country 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.
“This is not the time for retreat, indifference or despair; but the time to rise up in defence of what we believe – calmly, patiently, winning the argument by the force of argument; but without fear and with the conviction we act in the true interests of Britain.”
But Mr Blair has drawn anger from Brexiteers, who have attacked him for trying to frustrate the will of the people and ignore the historic referendum vote.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “What he really means is that he wants the British people to keep on being asked the same question again and again and again until they get it right.
“It just shows how arrogant and out of touch he and his friends in the political elite are. It’s complete nonsense.
“I suppose he learnt this disregard for democracy over the last few years from the friends he was advising in Kazakhstan.”
The Leave Means Leave group accused him of trying to “resurrect his political corpse to deceive the British people once again.”
Boss Richard Tice added: “The EU referendum was democratic, fair and free and the British people voted for Brexit.
“Tony Blair is now trying to do everything he can to halt Brexit.
“Britain will thrive from the huge benefits Brexit brings by leaving the Single Market and Customs Union.
“Out of touch, elitist, anti-democracy campaigners like Tony Blair should stop trying to sabotage this by damaging the strong negotiating position of Theresa May.”
At a speech at financial firm Bloomberg’s headquarters Mr Blair said Theresa May is leading a “mono-purpose” Government “for Brexit, of Brexit and dominated by Brexit”.
It is the same venue that David Cameron gave an infamous speech in 2013, promising he would offer the people an in/out referendum.
He said: “The road we’re going down is not simply Hard Brexit. It is Brexit at any cost.”
“Our challenge is to expose relentlessly what this cost is, to show how the decision was based on imperfect knowledge which will now become informed knowledge, to calculate in ‘easy to understand’ ways how proceeding will cause real damage to our country.
“And to build support for finding a way out from the present rush over the cliff’s edge.
“I don’t know if we can succeed. But I do know we will suffer a rancorous verdict from future generations if we do not try.”
Mr Blair wound up his lucrative post-politics businesses last year, hinting that he was seeking to return to stage he left when he stepped out of Downing Street for the last time in 2007.
But the former UN Middle East peace envoy is now a hugely divisive figure, after his disastrous intervention in Iraq overshadowed his three thumping election wins.
Mr Blair has said he understand many don’t want to see him back in UK politics, as there is “too much hostility” towards him.
But today he railed against the Prime Minister’s characterisation of a pro-EU metropolitan elite who are “citizens of nowhere”.
He said: “The PM says she wants Britain to be a great open trading nation. Our first step in this endeavour? To leave the largest free trading bloc in the world.
“She wants Britain to be a bridge between the EU and the USA. How to begin this worthy undertaking?
“To get out of Europe thus leaving us with no locus on the terrain where this bridge must be constructed.”
Mr Blair added: “This jumble of contradictions shows that the PM and the Government are not masters of this situation.
“They’re not driving this bus. They’re being driven.”
He attacked the plan to remove the UK from the remit of the European Court of Justice, saying: “I can honestly say that during all my time as PM there was no major domestic law that I wanted to pass which Europe told me I couldn’t.”
Mr Blair acknowledged “genuine concerns” over immigration but claim that “for many people” the main worry is around entrants from countries outside the EU.
“Especially when from different cultures in which assimilation and potential security threats can be an issue”, he added.
He added: “Nonetheless, we have moved in a few months from a debate about what sort of Brexit involving a balanced consideration of all the different possibilities; to the primacy of one consideration – namely controlling immigration from the EU – without any real discussion as to why and when Brexit doesn’t affect the immigration people most care about.
“Yet we’re told we have to stop debating it and just do it.”
Mr Blair will warn that the break-up of the UK is now “back on the table” but with a “much more credible” case for Scottish independence.
Reflecting on his own legacy, he will also highlight the “destabilising impact” of concerns over border arrangements on the Northern Ireland peace process.
February 17th, 2017: The Sun