Tony Blair says stopping Brexit more important than Labour winning next election

Chris Baynes
The former Prime Minister and Labour leader has previously said he is actively working to reverse the results of the EU referendum: PA

Labour should prioritise stopping Brexit ahead of winning the next election, Tony Blair has said.

The former Prime Minister said the party would “be saying what’s right” if it came out in opposition to the UK leaving the EU, and suggested the stance would also expose divisions within Conservative ranks.

He added he believed that “stopping Brexit is the route to win power” for Labour, and rejected the idea that accepting the referendum result was necessary to avoid the risk of losing support in former industrial heartlands.

When asked in The Guardian whether he agreed support for Brexit was a sacrifice worth making to win, he replied: “I don’t actually. No. I think this principle’s too important.”

He added: “I’d like to see a Labour government in power. But I think the key national priority right now is stopping Brexit. I would put it above everything else right now for the country.”

Mr Blair said he understood the “very pragmatic position” that Labour had taken to avoid being painted as the anti-Brexit party, but said this put them in the same position as the Conservatives – arguing to leave the EU but retain close trade links.

The strategy was also stopping Labour from focusing on the “destructive impact” of Brexit, and the distraction the “Tory psychodrama” was having on improving public services and the economy.

He acknowledged Labour would have a “huge fight” if it came out in opposition to the referendum result, but added that “you’d be fighting from a point of principle”, and said he believed “stopping Brexit is the route to win power”.

He said: “Think of what a galvanising movement you would have in those circumstances, because you would actually be – well, for a start you’d be saying what’s right. That’s quite an important thing to start with.

“Secondly, I think the impact on the Tories would be really profound, because you’d be driving a wedge right into that Tory division – and the Tories are a profoundly divided party.”

Mr Blair said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had a “genuine personal charm” which he admired, but warned the party would not face the same “incompetent” Tory campaign in the next general election as they encountered in this year’s snap vote.

The former Prime Minister and the current Labour leader have traded blows throughout their careers, but Mr Blair said: “I think what he does have is a genuine personal charm. I’ll give him that.

“You know, when the right-wing media were trying to build him into some sort of demented Marxist, I think his demeanour was of enormous assistance. I pay tribute to that, I genuinely do. I mean, I actually admire that.”

But Theresa May‘s election campaign was “more incompetent than any I’ve ever seen,” he said, adding: “I don’t think the same rules will necessarily apply in the next election.”

Mr Blair has previously said he is actively working to reverse the result of the EU referendum, telling BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend:It’s not done until it’s done.”