Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'cake and eat it' approach to Brexit

Jack Maidment
Tony Blair, the former Labour Prime Minister - PA

Jeremy Corbyn is trying to have his “cake and eat it" on Brexit and should come out and oppose the UK leaving the European Union, Tony Blair has said.

The former Prime Minister claimed Labour's position on Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc is "confusing" and that it would be "far better" if it made the case that leaving "isn't and never was the answer".

He warned: "If Labour continues to go along with Brexit and insists on leaving the Single Market, the handmaiden of Brexit will have been the timidity of Labour."

Mr Blair’s frank assessment of Labour’s Brexit strategy, set out in a lengthy article published today on his Institute for Global Change website, is likely to be given a frosty reception by the party’s current leadership.

In the article, accompanied by a document entitled “What We Now Know” detailing what has been learnt about Brexit since the referendum in 2016, Mr Blair said he made “no secret” of his desire for the UK to stay in the EU.

He claimed Britain was “making an error the contemporary world cannot understand and the generations of the future will not forgive” and that voters should have the “right to change our minds”.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Mr Blair said he believed Labour should be “explaining why membership of the European Union is right as a matter of principle” and that he disagreed with the party’s current “mistaken” approach to the issue.

The former PM predicted the Government will ultimately present Parliament with an incomplete Brexit deal and will pitch it as “this deal or no deal”.

Labour would then be “left arguing that they would be better negotiators”, a claim which he said “isn’t credible”.

“And here Labour has its own ‘cake and eat it’ phrases,” he said.

“The Shadow Chancellor says we will not be in ‘the’ Single Market but ‘a’ Single Market.

“The Shadow Industry Minister talks of keeping the benefits of the Customs Union agreements but still being free to negotiate our own trade deals.

“This is confusing terrain on which to fight.”

Brexit | Key dates

Mr Blair said it would be “far better to fight for the right for the country to re-think” its decision and “demand that we know the full details” of any proposed new relationship with the EU before Brexit is finalised.

He said opposing Brexit would allow Labour to “go after the Tories for their failures to tackle the country’s real challenges”.

“Make Brexit the Tory Brexit,” he said. “Make them own it 100 per cent.

“Show people why Brexit isn’t and never was the answer.”