Tony Blair: UK should keep Brexit options open

Source: BBC

Former prime minister Tony Blair has said “we should keep our options open” on the UK leaving the European Union.

He told the BBC the 48% who had voted to Remain felt “disenfranchised” and it was not clear “what we are moving to”.

He said that “if the will of the people shifts” as details of what Brexit means for the country begin to emerge, then, “Why shouldn’t we recognise that?”

Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn have both ruled out a second EU referendum.

When asked on Radio 4’s The World This Weekend whether “keeping our options open” meant a second EU referendum, Mr Blair replied: “It means whatever we decide it should mean as we see how this debate develops.”

But he said the case for leaving the EU had “crumbled”.

He said the government should engage now with other European Union countries to see what room there was for manoeuvre, stressing the continuing importance of David Cameron’s role in this, rather than waiting for the outcome of the Tory leadership race.

He said the referendum had been an event of “seismic importance” but warned the focus in the wake of Mr Cameron’s resignation as prime minister would be on the Conservative leadership contest rather than the country’s national interest.

Prime Minister David Cameron (L) chats to French President Francois Hollande as EU leaders met for the first time since the British referendum.Image copyrightEPA
Image caption: Mr Blair has called on David Cameron to begin immediate talks with European nations

He said that once the practical effects of the UK’s decision to leave the EU became clearer, then there should be a role for Parliament.

“Right now it’s clear. We’re leaving,” he added.

“But we don’t know what we’re going to. If what happens as we develop this negotiation with the rest of Europe, it does become clear – and let’s suppose for example we find we’re shut out of the single market, we have to rely on the World Trade Organisation as the route back in to different trade deals….

“My point is this. We are sovereign. Let’s just keep our options open.”

The former prime minister said Britain had “diminished” its place in the world and would have to “fight to get it back”.

‘Sidestep it’

There have been some calls for a second referendum and an online petition calling for one has been signed by more than four million people, although thousands of signatures were removed after it was hijacked by hackers.

Legally speaking, the petition would have to show a clear majority of the electorate now favoured Remain for a second referendum to be triggered, says the BBC’s legal correspondent Clive Coleman.

The five Conservative leadership candidates have all said they would not hold a referendum on Britain’s exit deal from the EU.

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