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Tony Blair says the people can stop Brexit

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Emily Badiozzaman
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Tony Blair has said that Theresa May’s hard Brexit can and may be stopped.  

In an interview with New Statesman, Blair suggested that the public could stop Britain leaving the EU, if they disagree with the terms of it.  

"It can be stopped if the British people decide that, having seen what it means, the pain-gain cost-benefit analysis doesn't stack up...” he said.

"When I say, 'Well, let's just keep our options open', it's condemned as treason. Why wouldn't you keep your options open?

"Why wouldn't you say, 'We took this decision, we took it before we saw what its consequences are; now we see its consequences, we're not so sure?'"

But he claimed voters - including those who backed Leave on 23 June - may opt for that if "the economic pain may be very great" for up to a decade.

Voting to leave was "like agreeing to a house swap without having seen the other house", he said. Which, let’s be honest, would make a great reality show.

The possibility of things turning around could happen one of two ways, but both due to negotiations on the single market.

“Either you get maximum access to the single market, in which case you’ll end up accepting a significant number of the rules on immigration, on payment into the budget, on the European court’s jurisdiction. People may then say, ‘Well, hang on, why are we leaving then?’ 

“Or alternatively, you’ll be out of the single market and the economic pain may be very great because, beyond doubt, if you do that you’ll have years, maybe a decade, of economic restructuring.”

Blair’s return to politics has been met with total sarcasm from Conservatives and Brexiteers, and doubtful hope from the 48% who voted to remain.

Sir John Major spoke in agreement with Blair at the National Liberal Club, ‘risking backlash from Eurosceptic Tories’. Nothing new for Major, who had to battle his own cabinet and backbenchers when he was trying to further integrate Britain into Europe. He never managed to sort it out with the ‘rebels’ in his government, and some of them are still in government. Second time lucky?

Major said that the 48% of voters who wanted to remain should not be subject to the “tyranny of the majority”.

He also argued that Remain voters should have a say in the process:

“I hear the argument that the 48% of people who voted to stay should have no say in what happens. I find that very difficult to accept. The tyranny of the majority has never applied in a democracy and it should not apply in this particular democracy.”

Major argued that it must be parliament, not the government, that made the final decision on any new deal with the EU. There was a “perfectly credible case” for a second referendum, he added.

If we were to choose two former Prime Ministers to lead an opposition movement, we’d hope we could do better than the immensely criticised Blair and Major, whose government following Thatcher’s led to Blair’s rise. They hit the campaign trail together before the referendum, and we all know how that went…

Theresa May’s spokesman still says a second referendum or reversal of Britain’s decision to leave won’t be happening.

“We’ve been clear all along that the people of the United Kingdom have given the government a very clear instruction to take us out of the European Union,” he said. “Even Sir John has accepted that we are going to be leaving the European Union.”

Meanwhile Lib Dems leader Tim Farron is having a great day. “When a former Conservative prime minister publicly comes out in support of a Lib Dem policy, it shows we are the only sensible party on Brexit.

“The British people voted for departure but they didn’t vote for a destination, and they certainly didn’t vote to make the nation poorer and risk jobs. The haphazard way May’s cabinet are handling Brexit makes the case for a referendum on the deal stronger each day, and we’re glad to have growing cross-party support for this campaign.”

Collective sigh. 

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Emily Badiozzaman

Emily is a freelance writer for Shortlist.com. She covers breaking news, entertainment, style and lifestyle for the site. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found eating and drinking or thinking about food and drinking. Follow Emily on Twitter: @ebadiozzaman 

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