Blair urges EU reform to halt Brexit

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Tony Blair will urge European leaders to help stop Brexit by promising new measures to address concerns on immigration.

The former premier will visit Brussels to ask for assistance in preventing the UK’s departure from the European Union, telling the continent’s leaders they share the responsibility to “lead us out of the Brexit cul-de-sac”.

Mr Blair will argue that the British people should be given a final say on the Brexit deal – and if EU leaders offer further concessions, the public could change its mind on leaving the bloc.

– Demonstrate to the British people that what they were told in June 2016 “has turned out much more complex and costly than they had thought”

– Show that there are better ways to respond to the “genuine underlying grievances beneath the Brexit vote, especially around immigration”

– EU leaders should accept the Brexit vote is a “wake-up call” to change and “not just an expression of British recalcitrance”.

Mr Blair will tell the European Policy Centre think tank: “Reform in Europe is key to getting Britain to change its mind.”

He will call for “a comprehensive plan on immigration control, which preserves Europe’s values but is consistent with the concerns of its people and includes sensitivity to the challenges of the freedom of movement principle”.

There should also be a “roadmap for future European reform” which would be “timely for the evolving British debate on Brexit”.

Mr Blair will say that Brexit is “momentous and life-changing for Britain” and the people “should be given a final say on whatever deal is negotiated”.

Countdown to Brexit: key events
(PA graphic)

“I and many others will work passionately for that outcome.”

Mr Blair will say that when Britain is faced with a “real choice” on Brexit, if the EU offered reforms it could transform the debate.

“If at the point Britain is seized of a real choice, not about whether we like Europe or not – the question of June 2016 – but whether on mature reflection the final deal the British Government offers is better than what we have, if – at this moment – Europe was to offer a parallel path to Brexit of Britain staying in a reforming Europe, that would throw open the debate to transformation,” he will say.

In a plea for action, Mr Blair will say: “There are errors in politics of passing significance and there are mistakes of destiny.

“If we believe – and I do – that this is of the latter kind, we cannot afford passive acquiescence.

“Those whose vision gave rise to the dream of a Europe unified in peace after centuries of war and whose determination translated that dream into practical endeavour, their ghosts should be our inspiration.”

Mr Blair’s intervention follows one on Wednesday from his predecessor Sir John Major and comes before Prime Minister Theresa May’s own Brexit speech on Friday.

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