Tony Blair is attempting to reverse Brexit and thinks voters being misled over an extra £350m per week for the NHS justifies a fresh vote, the ex-Prime Minister has said.
Blair, a long-term opponent of quitting the EU, cited the controversial NHS pledge when arguing “people can change their mind if the circumstances change”.
He suggested on BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that the Brexit deal being negotiated by Theresa May would, at best, mirror existing relationships, which would prompt many voters to think: “What’s the point?” Blair said:
“It’s reversible. It’s not done until it’s done.”
Asked if wanted to to reverse the vote, Blair replied:
“Yes, exactly so. “My belief is that, in the end, when the country sees the choice of this new relationship, it will realise that it’s either going to be something that does profound damage to the country, or alternatively, having left the European Union, left the single market, we will try and by some means recreate the benefit of that in some new relationship, in which case I think many people will think, ‘What’s the point?’”
“The will of the people is not something immutable. People can change their mind if the circumstances change.
“Just take the situation of the health service. The health service is a huge problem for people today, and the truth is it’s crumbling. And it’s a national tragedy, in a sense. A lot of people will have voted for Brexit on the basis that if you get out of Europe, all this money is going to come back and we can spend it on the health service.
“That was a very specific promise by the Brexiteers – it is now very clear, I think, one, there is no extra money for the health service, and, secondly, we’re going to be paying less money to the health service, not more, because growth is down and the huge bill for the European Union.”
The Government is facing up to the prospect of a £50 billion Brexit ‘divorce’ bill, while senior Brexiteers have been rowing back from the £350m per week NHS pledge.
Blair also warned of a renewed threat to peace in Ireland under the terms of any deal as the border becomes the biggest barrier to Brexit talks.
He said: “The Good Friday agreement is not under threat in the sense that everyone says they want to keep it, but it is at risk because of Brexit because the Republic of Ireland and the UK have always in history been in the same relationship to the EU.
“We were out of it then we joined it at exactly the same time. For the first time we’re going to be in a different relationship. The UK will be outside of Europe, the Republic of Ireland will be inside Europe.
“That necessarily means that that border between north and south will become the border between the UK and the European Union. The difficulties of this are self-evident.”
Blair’s new policy institute, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, is developing policy ideas to address his concerns – but the ex-Labour leader dismissed rumours that he was backing the creation of a new party,.