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Brexit: Labour should offer voters option of staying in EU if negotiations fail, says Tony Blair

The former Labour Prime Minister added the Government's stated aims for Brexit will be an 'endeavour of unparalleled complexity'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Sunday 19 March 2017 12:50 GMT
Tony Blair: Labour should offer voters the option to stay in EU if negotiations fail

Labour should be prepared to offer voters the option of staying in a reformed European Union if the Government fails in the Brexit negotiations of “unparalleled complexity”, Tony Blair has said.

The former Prime Minister also repeated his stance that he believed it was “possible” the public mood over the result of the referendum would change if Theresa May failed to deliver the promised benefits. Labour, Mr Blair added, should be prepared to capitalise on this potential scenario.

His comments come as Ms May prepares to trigger Article 50, the untested mechanism for a member state leaving the union, starting the countdown on Britain’s two-year exit from the EU.

She is expected to invoke the mechanism before the end of her self-imposed deadline of the end of March.

But it is unlikely to come this week due to celebrations on the continent for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which was signed in 1957 and established the European Economic Community (ECC).

When asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether Mr Corbyn’s Labour party was right to vote with the Government and respect the result of the referendum, Mr Blair said the party should offer an alternative if Downing Street failed to “pass the test” in the negotiations of “unparalleled complexity”.

He added: “What the Labour Party should say is, ‘We believed in Remain, we still think the best thing is for Britain to be part of the European Union we acknowledge the people voted against that, we acknowledge therefore the Government have a mandate to negotiate Brexit.

“But we are going to hold them to the test that they have set, and if they do not pass that test then we are going to retain the right to represent the people of this country should their will change, to offer them the option of staying.”

Mr Blair, who was Prime Minister between 1997 and 2007, said that David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, had told the Commons that the Government “were going to deliver a deal with exactly the same benefits we now have from the single market and the customs union.”

“We should hold them to that,” Mr Blair added.

“If they are going to try and deliver exactly the same benefits as we have now in the single market and customs union, this is an endeavour of unparalleled complexity.

“When the only thing people can point to is, you are going to control a section of this EU immigration as the reason why we want to do this, I think it is possible – I don't put it higher than that – that people start to think, is this really the thing that is going to be important?”

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