Tony Blair says PM should scrap Brexit vote and call referendum

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair
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Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said Theresa May should cancel next week’s Brexit vote in parliament and put her deal to the people in a new EU referendum.

Mr Blair said that instead of trying to force her plan through against opposition from both Brexiteers and Remainers, the PM should play the role of "facilitator" to find a compromise which can command a majority in the Commons.

Speaking at a Westminster lunch, the former Labour leader said Mrs May faced the prospect of "hitting a brick wall at speed" in the December 11 "meaningful vote".

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Asked if she should call the vote off, Mr Blair said: "Personally, I don't see what the point is in going down to a huge defeat. But I think that's a second-order question.

"The real issue is, is she prepared to work to see what is a compromise that has parliamentary approval?

"My belief is that when that process goes through, she will find that there isn't one. And if there isn't one, that's when my solution becomes more acceptable."

Mr Blair said the Prime Minister would be better to recognise the reality of her situation than "just going ahead".

"When you look at what Theresa May should do, if she can't get this thing through, she's got to be the facilitator of finding the thing that works," he said.

"And it is better to be in that position because that's the reality of where she is, than just kind of going ahead knowing you are going to hit that brick wall at speed."

The former Labour leader rejected claims that there would be widespread anger and possible civil unrest if EU membership were put to the people again.

“It’s a curious thing to go and riot on the street because you’ve been asked for your opinion.”

Mr Blair also warned of the risk to the Union from forcing through the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, or risking a no-deal exit from the EU.

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“I’ve always been worried about Brexit in the context of the UK, both for Northern Ireland which I would like to see stay part of the UK, and for Scotland,” Mr Blair said.

“I don’t think necessarily in the short term, but I think in the longer term, if we pull out of Europe, it is a further additional argument for those who make the case for Scottish independence.

“Where there was a strong majority in Scotland for being part of Europe, particularly amongst younger people, I think it’s a risk.”