Tory Eurosceptics react in anger as Tony Blair calls for Remain voters to “rise up” against Brexit

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 17 February 2017 in News

Blair argued that the case for Scottish independence is "much more credible" following the Brexit vote

Tony Blair – credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

Tory Leave campaigners have reacted in anger at Tony Blair’s call for Remain voters to “rise up” against plans for a hard Brexit.

In a keynote speech in London, the former Prime Minister urged Remain voters to persuade voters who backed Brexit that Britain should stay in the European Union, warning that the future of the UK is at risk if they fail.

Blair also argued that the case for Scottish independence is "much more credible" following the Brexit vote, adding that a second referendum is now “back on the agenda”.

Nicola Sturgeon responded on Twitter, saying: “Not his biggest fan but there's a quality of analysis & argument in Blair's speech today that has been totally lacking from Labour to date.”


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But Boris Johnson rejected the intervention as “bare-faced effrontery”. He said: “I respectfully say to Tony Blair, those who call on the British people to rise up against Brexit, I urge the British people to rise up and turn off the TV next time Tony Blair comes on with his condescending campaign."

Iain Duncan Smith described the speech as “both arrogant and a form of bullying”.

Meanwhile Scottish Labour rejected Blair’s remarks on independence. Ian Murray said: “Tony Blair is right to highlight the utter mess the Tories are making of Brexit. People did not vote to make themselves poorer, but that is exactly what will happen if Theresa May gets her way.

“The Tory Brexit chaos has certainly given the SNP the excuse it was looking for to stoke up more grievance. But the reality is that the economic case for separation is even worse now than when the people of Scotland rejected it in 2014.”

Asked whether he was calling for a second EU referendum, Blair said: “All I'm saying is a very, very simple thing, that this is the beginning of the debate - that if a significant part of that 52 per cent show real change of mind, however you measure it, we should have the opportunity to reconsider this decision.

"Whether you do it through another referendum or another method, that's a second order question.

"But this issue is the single most important decision this country has taken since the Second World War and debate can't now be shut down about it.”

Green MSP Ross Greer questioned the intervention, saying there was “a perverse irony in the man who took us into an illegal war based on false information talking about the public not being sure about what they got into”.

He said: “The case for independence is stronger now as it has ever been. Independence would allow Scotland to stay with Europe and avoid the angry, isolated Brexit Britain planned by the Tories, one which will cost Scotland 80,000 jobs, a £2,000 drop in average wages and worse.”

Willie Rennie said: “Tony Blair is right about Europe but wrong about independence.”

SNP Europe spokesperson Stephen Gethins said: “Tony Blair’s comments simply reflect the reality that the independence debate now is fundamentally different to the one in 2014 – and the Tories’ threat of a hard Brexit at any cost to Scotland is only going to see support for an independent Scotland rise further still.

"The Scottish Government has offered an in-depth and comprehensive plan showing how Scotland can remain in the single market even if the rest of the UK leaves, but it is clear that compromise is simply not being listened to by the Tories, despite clear evidence today that Brussels is very open to such a deal. There's a European Parliament report welcoming this compromise to keep us in the single market, because of the devastating potential impact on our economy of a hard Brexit.”

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