Final Say: Tony Blair claims Labour moving towards backing new Brexit referendum
'No other proposition that can get through parliament,' says former prime minister
The former Labour prime minister, who is backing a public vote on the Brexit deal, admitted there was no Commons majority for a new vote but he said Labour was shifting towards backing the idea.
Labour’s official position is to keep all options on the table, including the prospect of a second referendum, but Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly made clear that he would prefer a general election.
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Mr Blair said the Brexit deal was “a dodo”, which was hated by both Leave and Remain supporters, and insisted that the choice presented to people was between “painful and pointless”.
The only way to break the parliamentary impasse is a final say referendum, he said, as Ms May faces opposition from more than 90 Tory MPs, Labour and other opposition parties, including her DUP allies.
It comes as European leaders finally signed off Ms May’s deal at an emergency summit in Brussels, where European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker warned rebellious MPs that the agreement was “the best deal possible”.
Asked if there was a parliamentary majority for a second vote, Mr Blair told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Not yet but I think it will get there.”
He added: “I think it’s moving that way and I would be really surprised if the Labour party doesn’t end up in the position of supporting another vote.
“Because there’s no other proposition that can get through parliament.”
Mr Blair said the deal failed to ”honour the Brexit mandate because the people who most fervently believe in Brexit say this isn’t Brexit”.
“Therefore the only way you’re going to unite the county ultimately is to get this back to the people and say you’ve got a mandate, whether the government does a proper Brexit – that’s the sort of Brexit that Boris Johnson wants – or that we stay,” he said.
Mr Blair pledged that “if the country votes again to Leave, I accept it and I’ll get behind it and try and make it work”.
The Independent has launched a campaign for a Final Say referendum on Ms May’s Brexit deal, which has attracted more than a million supporters.
However, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon dismissed calls for a second referendum, saying Labour needed to focus on the upcoming Commons vote, which is expected on December 10 or 11, ahead of the next European Council meeting.
He added: “We’re now reaching a point where Theresa May is trying to push through parliament an ill-fated, half-baked deal that’s the worst of all worlds.
“We need to work as hard as we can to ensure she thinks again and try and bring people together on the basis of a deal that works in the national interest.”
It comes after it emerged that John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, had met with former Labour spin doctors Alastair Campbell and Tom Baldwin, who are senior figures from the People’s Vote campaign.
Mr McDonnell told the Sunday Times: “I was happy to meet representatives from the People’s Vote campaign simply to map out what options are available to us based on conference policy, which includes the option of a public vote.”
Sources close to Mr McDonnell advised that Labour’s policy had not changed and that he was still pushing for a general election.
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.
Sign our petition here