Final Say: Tony Blair backs Independent's campaign for a referendum on final Brexit deal

The former prime minister said people did not vote for a country that would be forced to stockpile food and medicine

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Thursday 26 July 2018 15:11 BST
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Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has backed The Independent's campaign
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has backed The Independent's campaign (PA)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Tony Blair has thrown his weight behind The Independent’s Final Say campaign for a referendum on the terms of Brexit.

The ex-prime minister said no-one who voted in the 2016 referendum wanted a poorer country that is forced to stockpile food and medicines, as the UK is now doing.

The Independent kicked off its campaign for a Final Say on whatever Brexit terms emerge next year along with a petition earlier this week.

Within 24 hours almost 200,000 had signed the petition showing the strength of feeling in the wider country for people to have an opportunity to express themselves again.

Mr Blair took to Twitter to say: “33m+ people voted in the EU referendum wanting a better country, not to be poorer, not to put further pressure on our already stretched health service, not for job losses or to stockpile food and medicines. It should be your #Finalsay.”

Theresa May has urged voters not to worry about Brexit, despite her government setting out plans to stockpile food, blood and medicine in case it goes badly.

She said people should take “reassurance and comfort” from news of the plans, to be implemented if the UK crashes out of the EU without an agreement in March next year.

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It came after health secretary Matt Hancock admitted he had already met with industry leaders to discuss building up NHS reserves of vaccinations, medical devices, clinical consumables and blood products if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.

Dominic Raab, the new Brexit secretary, also recently confirmed preparations were being made to stockpile food, as ministers ramp up planning in case the negotiations fail.

Mr Blair follows a string of other politicians baking the Independent’s campaign, including ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve who said another referendum is “the sensible way forward”, Labour’s Chuka Umunna, Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, ex Labour spinner Alistair Campbell and Gina Miller.

The push was launched with a major editorial on Tuesday night which set out why a Final Say is needed for the British people.

33m+ people voted in the EU referendum wanting a better country, not to be poorer, not to put further pressure on our already stretched health service, not for job losses or to stockpile food and medicines.

Tony Blair

It read: “The British people decided to pursue our course in the referendum of 2016, so as we now look for a decision on whether we will like the deal agreed with the EU (assuming there is one), it is natural that those same people should have the final say.

“Indeed, given the magnitude of the decision, it would be essential for the British people to be given that final right of approval, even if cabinet and parliament were providing the leadership we need, which they are not.”

The most recent polling shows that amid the chaos of the Brexit process, the largest number of people in the UK would prefer to simply remain in the EU, if forced to choose between staying or going.

The survey undertaken by BMG Research asked some 1,500 people in a balanced cross-section of the public: “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union, or leave the European Union?”

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Some 49 per cent said “remain”, while 43 per cent said “leave”, 7 per cent said they did not know and 1 per cent refused to answer.

When those who did not give a clear answer the first time were asked which way they are “leaning towards most”, a total of 51 per cent said “remain”, and 45 per cent said “leave”, while 5 per cent still said they did not know or refused to answer.

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