Tony Blair has claimed he could have “united the country” after stopping Brexit.
The former prime minister suggested that if he was in power, he would have stopped the UK leaving the EU before “dealing with the problems” that persuaded people to vote for Brexit in the 2016 referendum.
Blair, who was talking at an event marking 120 years of the Labour Party, described Leave supporters as “these Brexit people” and towns and cities above London’s M25 corridor as “these northern places”.
The former Sedgefield MP was one of the leading “stop Brexit” voices before Boris Johnson’s landslide election win. He also said Brexit could have been prevented if Labour had been a “serious opposition” under Jeremy Corbyn.
Speaking at King’s College London on Thursday, Blair said: “I don’t think you can ever unite the country over Brexit. You can unite them after Brexit.
“So, if we had stopped Brexit, which I think we could have done if we had a serious opposition, I would have said you immediately would have to deal with all the problems that gave rise to [people voting for] Brexit.
“You would have to take a whole series of measures to make sure you are pulling those people back towards you, having alienated them by not doing Brexit.”
He went on: “What Boris Johnson is doing is wrapping it around the other way: ‘I’m going to do Brexit and reach out to all these northern places, and we’re going to try and keep those Brexit people with us.’”
Blair criticised Corbyn’s Brexit policy of negotiating a new deal with the EU before holding a referendum while remaining neutral.
“It was a bizarre policy,” he said.
A recent YouGov poll of Labour members found Blair is their least favourite leader of the past century.
His presence in the party is so toxic that he is refusing to publicly back his favoured leadership election candidate for fear of damaging their campaign.
He did say: “Whatever happens is going to be a significant improvement [on Corbyn].”
Blair had earlier used the speech to call for a “head-to-toe renewal” of Labour to avoid being out of power for three-quarters of its 120-year existence.