Tony Blair calls for changes to EU free movement rules to halt Brexit

Posted On: 
1st March 2018

Tony Blair will today call on the European Union to change its rules around freedom of movement as part of a bid to halt Brexit.

Tony Blair is due to give a speech in Brussels later today
PA Images

The former prime minister is set to urge EU leaders to recognise Britain’s Leave vote as a “wake-up call” with a warning that the bloc has just “months, perhaps weeks, to think, plan and act”.

His intervention comes a day after Sir John Major savaged Theresa May’s approach on Brexit and said voters should be given the chance to either accept or reject the final deal in a fresh referendum.

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In a speech in Brussels, Mr Blair will say the offer of a “parallel path to Brexit” could see the UK change its mind in the event of a referendum on the final deal, which he also advocates.

“Europe knows it needs reform. Reform in Europe is key to getting Britain to change its mind. There should surely be a way of alignment,” he will say.

“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, together with a roadmap for future European reform which recognises the issues underpinning the turmoil in traditional European politics and is in line with what many European leaders are already advocating, would be right for Europe and timely for the evolving British debate on Brexit."

He will add that with the option for “mature reflection”, where the EU offered an alternative deal to that put forward by the UK, the debate could be thrown open to “transformation”.

The speech will also set out why Mr Blair believes Brexit is "also bad for Europe, and why European leaders share the responsibility to lead us out of the Brexit cul-de-sac and find a path to preserve European unity”.

And he is expected to underline the importance of Parliament’s vote on the final deal, arguing that MPs can “be more decisive than either Government or Opposition”.

“Outside commentary under-estimates the fact that at some point this year the Government have got to put a vote to Parliament and win it,” he will add.

“They will of course try to fudge, but as we are seeing this cake is quite resistant to fudge.

“After last June’s General Election, winning this vote will be much tougher than is commonly understood.”