Tony Blair warns Labour against ‘elephant trap’ of a general election

Former prime minister Tony Blair. Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor.

Former prime minister Tony Blair. Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Tony Blair is to call on for Labour to oppose any move by Boris Johnson to hold a snap general election until Brexit has been resolved - but has praised Jeremy Corbyn for his work so far.

The former prime minister will say Labour should not "fall into the elephant trap" of backing a Westminster poll if MPs cannot agree on Brexit.

Blair will say Labour should throw its weight behind supporting legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit, not a vote of no confidence in the government.

In an address at the Institute for Government, Blair will say: "Should the government seek an election, it should be refused in favour of a referendum.

"It is counter-intuitive for opposition parties to refuse an election.

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"But in this exceptional case, it is vital they do so as a matter of principle, until Brexit is resolved.

"Brexit is an issue which stands on its own, was originally decided on its own and should be reconsidered on its own.

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"But the Brexiteers are laying a trap, to seem as if pushed into an election against their will, when they're actively preparing for it."

Blair will praise Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for his stance.

He will say: "In backing away from the idea of himself as a 'caretaker prime minister' Jeremy Corbyn has behaved responsibly, and if he continues to put country first, he will benefit the country and himself.

"He can now play a decisive role in how Brexit develops.

"But he should see an election for the elephant trap it is.

"If the government tries to force an election, Labour should vote against it."

Warning against the consequences of leaving the EU without an agreement, Blair will say: "We are poised to leave Europe on October 31 with no deal and no idea frankly of what it really means.

"It could be difficult, damaging, or disastrous.

"This is a reckless path. But there is a strategy behind it, and we must be equally strategic in opposing it.

"First, the June 2016 referendum cannot be taken as a mandate for a no-deal Brexit.

"Feeble attempts to suggest it is have foundered on the overwhelming evidence that, on the contrary, Brexiteers continually stated that there would be a deal and that it would be easy.

"Second, therefore, if the government policy is to come out with no deal, then either parliament should agree it, or the people.

"Third, and this is the crux, if parliament cannot agree, then the right way to consult the people is not through a general election but through a referendum."

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