Tony Blair’s reasons why Brexit will mean pain for Britain

Tony Blair during his speech on Brexit at an Open Britain event in central London.  Picture: PA

Tony Blair during his speech on Brexit at an Open Britain event in central London. Picture: PA

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Tony Blair has insisted that the Brexit result can be reversed once the public faces up to “all the pain” that the country will suffer as a result of leaving the European Union.

Speaking in London, the former Prime Minister spelled out the reasons he fears that the voters will come to regret what he describes as “Brexit at any cost”.

IMMIGRATION WILL HARDLY BE CUT

He acknowledged that hostility to levels of immigration was a key factor in last year’s referendum result. Yet he argued that more than half of migrants come from outside the EU – and that leaving the bloc would make no difference to this flow of new arrivals. He claimed that once European Union students and people with firm job offers were taken out of the equation, that would mean a potential post-Brexit cut in immigration of no more than 12 per cent.

Is he right? It’s true that Brexit cannot achieve the huge falls in immigration promised by David Cameron and Theresa May. But it was not clear how he arrived at his 12 per cent figure.

PRICES ARE GOING UP

He said the pound had fallen against the euro by 12 per cent and against the dollar by 20 per cent, which Mr Blair said amounted to the financial markets’ assessment that the country would be poorer as a result of Brexit. “The price of imported goods in the supermarkets is up and thus the cost of living.”

Is he right? So far yes, but he ignores the other side of the argument – that the weaker pound makes exports more competitive.

LEAVING THE SINGLE MARKET

He said the market had “been of enormous benefit to the UK, bringing billions of pounds of wealth, hundreds of thousands of jobs and major investment opportunities”.

Is he right? This is certainly the view of the majority of business and political leaders, but Eurosceptics counter that it has strangled business in bureauracy and needless regulation.

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LEAVING THE CUSTOMS UNION

EU-related trade – either via the single market or the customs union – amounts to two-thirds of Britain’s exports, he argued. “This impacts everything from airline travel to financial services to manufacturing, sector by sector.”

Is he right? Yes, but Brexit supporters insist that leaving it will put Britain on the path to becoming a leader of global free trade.

LOSING POLITICAL INFLUENCE

Mr Blair cited the example of the UK being left negotiating its own deals on issues like the environment “where we presently benefit from Europe’s collective strength”.

Is he right? Britain will lose the advantage of the collective strength of the EUafter Brexit.

MINISTERS WON’T BE ABLE TO TACKLE DOMESTIC PROBLEMS

Theresa May’s entire focus is on Brexit, he claimed. That meant the Government was not fully facing up to problems like the “severe crisis” in the NHS, improving the education system, helping deprived communities, combating serious crimeand responding to rapid technological change.

Is he right? It’s far too early to tell. It’s certainly true that Brexit is currently preoccupying much of Whitehall.

THE UK COULD BREAK UP

Mr Blair said Scottish independence – narrowly avoided in the 2014 referendum – was “back on the table but this time with a context much more credible for the independence case”.

Is he right? So far there is no sign of an upsurge in support for Scottish independence. That could change once the UK leaves the EU.

NORTHERN IRELAND PEACE UNDERMINED

The former Prime Minister, who negotiated the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, said: “We are already seeing the destabilising impact of negotiation over border arrangements on the Northern Ireland peace process”.

Is he right? The uncertainty over the border certainly can’t help – not least because the DUP and Sinn Fein were on opposite sides of the Brexit debate.

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