Britain's EU membership renegotiation would be 'a monumental error of statesmanship', says Blair
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 28 November 2012
Plans to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the European Union by David Cameron could result in it leaving the 27-nation bloc, Tony Blair warned today.
The former Prime Minister said it would be “a monumental error of statesmanship” for the UK to turn its back on Europe. He said the Conservatives had caught a “virus” on EU withdrawal, and suggested that Mr Cameron would be pushed down the exit route even though he supports continued membership.
In a speech to be delivered in the next weeks, Mr Cameron is expected to say that a “new settlement” between Britain and the EU could be put to a referendum after the 2015 election. But Mr Blair argued that renegotiation “is the refuge of those who want to leave but want to persuade people that it’s really just an adjustment of our relationship”.
He told the Business for New Europe group at a speech in London: “Then in the course of the adjustment, when the going gets very rough – as it will – they will then say, ‘well, it’s a pity but now it seems adjustment is not enough’. Don’t go down this path unless we are prepared to follow it all the way.”
Although Mr Blair failed to become the first President of the European Council, the group comprising the EU’s 27 national leaders including Mr Cameron, allies say he is keen to succeed Herman Van Rompuy in the post when his term of office ends in 2014. But some Brussels insiders believe Britain’s semi-detached status – and Mr Blair’s backing for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 – may count against him.
Today Mr Blair admitted that much of the criticism levelled at the EU was justified, but insisted that it was dangerous for Britain to edge towards the exit. He argued that despite the eurozone crisis, the case for the EU is stronger today than when the project began 66 years ago. Then the rationale was peace after the Second World War. Today, he said, the reason is not idealism but to leverage power in a “new world” in which economic might is shifting to China and India.
“You need the heft of the EU,” he said. “We need the EU to help pursue our national interest. With it, we count for more. Without it, we count for less.”
Insisting that it is not “sensible” to be talking about a referendum now, Mr Blair suggested some Tories have developed an irrational fixation on withdrawal. “The right have got it really bad on this Europe thing and it is a kind of virus that makes you want to take positions for the sake of asserting them, when a rational analysis says you don’t need to be in that position,” he said.
Mr Blair admitted that Britain could have a future outside the EU with its own “unique brand”, but said it was a “delusion” that it could be like Norway or Switzerland. The UK would lose its global leadership role, he argued, relegating itself in the league of nations; it would be outside the decision-making process of the single market and it would lose the ability to co-operate on issues such as climate change, trade talks and foreign policy.
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Most expensive city to live in for expatriates: Luanda, Angola takes number one spot with Hong Kong and Zurich in top three
If Surrey were Syria: Social experiment shows what it's like to live under siege
Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
Irish tourist filmed fighting with shopkeepers in Turkey says they 'messed with the wrong man'
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal get peerages
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...
£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...
£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...
£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...