Time is running out to halt Brexit. That was Tony Blair’s dire warning on the airwaves yesterday, as the former prime minister once again waded into the referendum debate to say that: ‘2018 will be the year when the fate of Brexit and thus of Britain will be decided’. Unsurprisingly, his warnings have not gone down well in today’s newspapers.
The Sun says that Blair’s ‘stomach-churning dishonesty on Brexit was putrid even for him.’. The paper says that the worst thing about Blair’s intervention was ‘his feigned concern for democracy’ in trying to insist that voters should be allowed another say on Brexit. Despite what he might say about his intentions, ‘this faded snake oil salesman’ is only interested in one thing, says the Sun: trying to block Brexit and ‘reverse the tide of history’. But what Blair needs to realise is that the outcome of the referendum vote was ‘in part the final revolt against Blair’s disastrous misjudgements’. ‘He flung open our borders’, says the Sun, and his failure to control his chancellor Gordon Brown’s spending resulted in the need for austerity when the global financial crash hit. Whatever Blair might say about voters having a rethink, the polls suggest that opinion has ‘barely moved since’ the referendum. Yet there is common agreement on one issue, argues the Sun: ‘a loathing of Blair unites majorities of Leavers, Remainers, Tory, Labour and Lib-Dem voters, male and female, of every age and class, in every region of England, Scotland and Wales.’
Blair’s decision to wade into the Brexit debate gives an insight into the ‘arguments that Remain will use in 2018: Brexit threatens the economy and the NHS is hemorrhaging foreign staff’. It’s true that Blair’s comments are unlikely to win over voters, few of whom trust him, says the Daily Telegraph. Yet his ‘real audience’ isn’t Brits but the EU ‘which could scupper the Brexit negotiations’ as a result of Blair’s intervention. The aim of Blair’s comments is to tell Brussels to ‘play tough’, says the Telegraph. After all, ‘if Brexit is perceived to be going badly, the voters might be persuaded to change their minds’.
In its editorial, the Daily Telegraph agrees with the Sun in suggesting that the causes of Brexit are partly attributable to New Labour. Blair ‘led us further into Europe without proper consultation’ and Brown signed us up to the Lisbon Treaty ‘without first putting it to the public’. This ‘obsession’ with ’centralisation and regulation fed popular resentment towards the status quo’, suggests the paper – and the result was that, on June 23rd 2016, voters rejected this type of politics and turned their backs on the EU. Blair would do well to remember this. But while voters are likely to need little persuading to reject Blair’s arguments, the Tories must not give people like our former PM free reign to ‘monopolise debate’. After Blair’s interview on the Today program, it fell to Lord Lamont to offer the counter argument. Why did no ministers ‘enter the fray’? ‘It is time to promote some Tory talent dedicated to making the case for Brexit just as doggedly as Mr Blair opposes it,’ concludes the Telegraph.