Published: Sun, July 16, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

EU leaders willing to compromise on freedom of movement, says Tony Blair

EU leaders willing to compromise on freedom of movement, says Tony Blair

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "The whole issue to do with Brexit is that we know why we left but we didn't know previous year what the terms of leaving would be".

"European leaders, after discussions that I have had, are willing to consider changes to go in the direction of the United Kingdom, including the freedom of movement". On freedom of movement, the principle is indivisible.

In comments which have angered some British politicians, Mr Blair suggested that the tide of public opinion was turning against the idea of Brexit and that it was "absolutely necessary" for the United Kingdom stay inside the EU.

The EU has previously said that Britain can not enjoy the benefits of free trade with the other 27 member states without accepting the principles of free movement, which make it easier for EU citizens to work and travel within the trading bloc.

"I think it's possible now that Brexit doesn't happen", Blair said on "Sophy Ridge on Sunday" to be broadcast by Sky News, the network tweeted.

And in February, he called on opponents of Brexit to "rise up" and fight to change the British people's minds on the issue.

Blair acknowledges - and laments - that his beloved Labour Party did not campaign against the Brexit.

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Many Western EU leaders are indeed concerned to limit free movement only to workers - as specified in the EU treaty.

"Rational consideration of the options would sensibly include the option of negotiating for Britain to stay within a Europe itself prepared to reform and meet us half way", he wrote in an article for his Institute for Global Change think-tank.

He had kinder words for current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying that the June election result was "remarkable".

The former prime minister claimed the Tories lost their majority in the election because large numbers of people voted to deny Theresa May the mandate for a so-called "hard" Brexit.

On Brexit, Mr Blair said: "If Labour continues to be for leaving the single market, and the signs are that it will, then we are essentially for the same policy as the Government".

I hope Tony Blair and everybody else recognises that is what our position is and that we do recognise the results of the referendum a year ago.

But Britain under a Corbyn-led government could "hit the canvas, flat on our back" if it adopted hard-left economics, Blair said. He wanted to take Britain into the euro zone and believed Britain should lead the way in the European Union rather than withdraw from it.

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