UK Politics

Brexit debate not over, Tony Blair says

Tony Blair Image copyright PA

It is possible that Brexit may never happen if public opinion turns against it, former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

Mr Blair, who campaigned for a vote to stay in the EU, said such an outcome was unlikely but that "the debate continues" despite June's Leave vote.

He told French radio station Europe 1: "Who made the rule that we have to stop the debate now?"

PM Theresa May has said the UK will not stay in the EU "by the back door".

On Thursday her cabinet agreed to "push ahead" with triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which begins the formal two-year process for leaving the EU.

Speaking in French, Mr Blair said Mrs May - who also backed a Remain vote - had to make her "Brexit means Brexit" statement to unite her party and appease the right-wing press in the aftermath of the referendum.

"For the rest of us, we are free to have a debate," he said.

There was currently "confusion" over the way forward because "we do not know the terms of Brexit", said Mr Blair.

"We have done something rather bizarre with Brexit," said the former Labour leader.

"It's like moving house without having seen the new house. We have made an agreement to exchange, but we don't yet know the terms of Brexit, we don't know the costs and the consequences."

He added: "There will come a moment when we have had the negotiations and we can see the terms we are being offered by the rest of Europe and we will be able to say that it is a good idea or perhaps that it is a bad idea with major consequences."

Asked whether it was possible the decision could be reversed with the UK staying in the EU, Mr Blair said at the moment, this was unlikely.

"But the debate continues, and I think it is possible, yes."

The vote to leave, Mr Blair said, had been a reaction against austerity, globalisation and immigration.

Mr Blair's comments come after former civil service chief Lord O'Donnell suggested Britain could remain in a "more loosely aligned" European Union if public opinion changed.

Brexit campaigners have called on Mrs May to invoke Article 50 immediately, but the PM has indicated this will not happen until the start of 2017 at the earliest.

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