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Tony Blair warns general election risks no-deal Brexit

Image credit: Alister Thorpe

Tony Blair warns general election risks no-deal Brexit

Former prime minister Tony Blair has issued a plea to MPs not to mix up a general election with Brexit.

Speaking in Edinburgh, Blair warned that a general election - while justified - would risk a no-deal Brexit and urged MPs to “think of the decisions and choices they’re going to make”.

Blair said he still believed “no Brexit is a better solution than no-deal Brexit”.

He added: “I think that is still possible, but I have one major plea that I would beg of members of parliament down in Westminster is that they think of the decisions and choices they're going to make over the next few weeks.

“If there is a deadlock in parliament - and let's be clear, there is not a majority for a no-deal Brexit, this would be voted down by a large number of MPs - but if there is going to be a proposition by the government for no-deal Brexit, and if there is deadlock in parliament as a result, the right thing is indeed to go back to the people.

“But I beg and plea not by way of a general election. To mix a general election up with the specific issue of Brexit is wrong in principle, it’s wrong in the politics.”

Blair continued: “They should be absolutely clear that the general election may be justified… but it should not be mixed up with the specific question of Brexit, otherwise there is a substantial risk that we end up with a no-deal Brexit, not because the country wants it, but because the opposition vote is divided.”

In his speech to the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists’ Association, Blair spoke of how “deep” his Scottish roots are and how he remains convinced that devolution – which was made possible after his Labour government was elected in 1997 – has been a success.

He said: “The debate about devolution, right or wrong, will continue to rage.

“I think, 20 years on, my ultimate reflection is that it was an attempt to find a way of reconciling the need for a nation such as Scotland to have far greater power and control over its own affairs, while still remaining part of a larger alliance that could help the interests of that nation state in a changing world.

“I still think it's best that Scotland stays in that place. I still think the same argument applies to Britain's place in Europe. And I hope that maybe out of all the turmoil of these past years, we're able to get to a place where our politics better reflects that view.”

But he also accepted the argument for independence has been strengthened by Brexit.

“I remain a convinced unionist, I want Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom irrespective of Brexit, whether it happens or whether it doesn’t happen,” he said. “But it would be foolish to deny that if what is proposed is a no-deal Brexit and we were to do such a thing, then it would be a whole additional dimension to the argument for independence that those that wish independence would use and use persuasively."



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