Former British prime minister Tony Blair. Picture: REUTERS
Former British prime minister Tony Blair. Picture: REUTERS

London/New York — Former UK prime minister Tony Blair, who led the country between 1997 and 2007, has said there is a 30% chance that Britain’s decision to quit the EU will be reversed.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV in New York, Blair said voters should be given a second opportunity to decide on Brexit once the outcome becomes more clear. "I still have some difficulty seeing how, after the general election which produced a hung parliament in the UK, this government is going to get its form of Brexit through," Blair said. "I think there’s about a 30% chance it’s changed, but a lot will depend on how the debate develops over this year."

Blair later clarified in an interview off camera that he believes there’s a 30% chance the split won’t happen at all. Asked if in Prime Minister Theresa May’s shoes he would fire Boris Johnson for insubordination over Brexit policy, he demurred: "Well I wouldn’t be happy."

Blair, an outspoken opponent of the split with the EU, warned that pursuing a "hard Brexit" could result in a socialist-leaning Labour government.

Asked about Johnson’s plan for a fast split from the bloc, Blair said the vision of crashing out of the EU with the goal of becoming a low-tax, low-regulation offshore hub would be a disaster.

"The risk we face is if we do this hard Brexit — actually the economy will suffer, our public services will be under threat, and you actually might end up in the UK with a Labour government frankly further to the left than any Labour government’s ever been," he said. "You combine a right-wing populist punch in the form of Brexit with a left-wing populist punch in the form of a Labour government with an unreconstructed far-left programme [and] we’re going to do our country some damage."

Blair is no ally of current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was a serial rebel during Blair’s time in office. His characterisation of him winning an election as a "risk" of Brexit shows how distant he is from the current party hierarchy. It comes as Corbyn is looking to change the party machinery at Labour’s conference next week to ensure another left-winger will replace him as party leader. He wants to change the rules so the support of fewer UK house of commons lawmakers — who tend to be more centrist — is needed for candidates to go forward for election by the party membership.

Blair’s views also echo those of former Conservative leader William Hague, who warned in his column in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday that continued bickering among ministers over the best route out of the EU would lead to a Labour victory.


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