People must have second vote, says Blair

PUBLISHED: 15:32 23 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:32 23 February 2018

Tony Blair has claimed the government is still in 'cake and eat it' mode over Brexit

Tony Blair has claimed the government is still in 'cake and eat it' mode over Brexit

PA Archive/PA Images

Tony Blair has slammed the government for still being in “cake and eat it mode” over Brexit.

The former prime minister said Theresa May’s top team are yet to face the binary choice facing them over Brexit.

Blair said the reality is that Britain will have to follow Brussels’ rules if it wants a close trading relationship with the EU, with a role for the European Court of Justice, while remaining outside the decision-making processes.

This would not be “taking back control” as the Brexit campaign promised, and the only way to make a clean break would be to turn Britain into a “dynamic, low tax, light regulation, offshore trading hub”, he said.

The British people must therefore be given a vote on the final terms of Brexit as “the polity of Britain” is at stake.

In an article attacking the “road to Brexit” series of speeches which will culminate in an address by May next Friday, Blair wrote: “Each speech in this bizarre parade of government ministers designed to show unity only further exposes the division.

“They all try to pull the sword out of the stone, huffing and puffing away, and all fail.

“The Chequers meeting had barely ended before each side was briefing victory and the PM unity.

“They’re basically still in ‘cake and eat it’ mode and it won’t work.

“This is because there is no escape from the binary nature of the choice over future trading arrangements.”

Blair, the key figure in the Good Friday Agreement that helped bring peace to Northern Ireland, also attacked ministers’ “sickening” irresponsibility over the deal.

He claimed the agreement is being sacrificed so the government can leave the customs union to strike free trade deals around the world, raising the prospect of border posts on the island of Ireland.

He wrote: “There are politicians prepared to sacrifice the Good Friday Agreement on the altar of Brexit and declare that the peace agreed in Northern Ireland is not, really, worth having anyway.

“This is irresponsibility that is frankly sickening.”

Blair also urged his Labour Party to oppose Brexit, as Jeremy Corbyn prepares to deliver his own key speech on withdrawal.

The former Labour leader released a study accompanying his article showing that Brexit will cause economic pain, and that the UK needs most categories of EU migrant, adding: “It is good that the Labour Party position is ‘evolving’. But it must align it fully with its policy programme.

“To carry on pretending that there is Brexit and then, separate from Brexit, there is the NHS, education, crime etc. is ridiculous.

“If the evidence we present in this paper of all the economic forecasts is only half right, Brexit will reduce the scope for Government spending dramatically.

“The paper shows we are already losing vital European staff from the NHS.

“We are already suffering lower growth.

“The last thing Britain could sensibly do is to leave Europe and then pursue a sort of leftist version of the European social democracy it had just abandoned.”

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