Tony Blair says voters should have the chance to change their minds on Brexit


Former prime minister Tony Blair has weighed into the debate over Brexit by suggesting that people should have the opportunity to change their minds over the vote.

Blair, who has described the decision to leave the European Union as a "catastrophe", said: "There is absolutely no reason why we should close off any options. You can't change this decision, unless it becomes clear in one way or another, that the British people have had a change of mind because they have seen the reality of the alternative.

Tony Blair with French president Francois Hollande
The former PM met French president Francois Hollande in France to discuss the future of Brexit negotiations (Thomas Samson/AP)

"We are entitled to carry on scrutinising, and, yes, if necessary, to change our minds, because it seems sensible to us to do so. This is not about an elite over-ruling the people."

The former Labour leader stopped short of actively campaigning for the Remain camp in the build-up to the referendum in June, admitting that his involvement could have had a toxic effect on the outcome due to controversies concerning his time as PM and his decision to follow America into war in Iraq in 2003.

At the beginning of 2016 Blair admitted that he was frustrated by the lack of vigour from the Remain camp and called for more "muscularity" from the centre ground in British politics. He has been a strong opponent of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and shift to the left in the party he once led.

Blair in Iraq in 2003.
Blair in Iraq in 2003. He decided against formally campaigning for Remain due to fears controversy around the Iraq War could cause a negative result (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Speaking to BBC Radio 4´s Today programme, he said: "The bizarre thing about this referendum is that we, obviously, took the decision we wanted to leave the European Union, but we don't yet know the precise terms of our new relationship with Europe. Once we get clarity on that then we can decide between two alternatives, and not simply decide what we don't like about Europe."

Blair met with French president Francois Hollande earlier this week to discuss the future negotiation regarding leaving the union, and came away feeling gloomy about its prospects.

David Cameron and Angela Merkel at a meeting in Berlin.
David Cameron and Angela Merkel at a meeting in Berlin. Tony Blair has criticised the Remain campaign, and previously called for more "muscularity" in the centre ground of British Politics (Markus Schreiber/AP)

He said: "It convinced me that it's going to be very, very tough. We have to understand that we are not going to be conducting this negotiation with a group of European businessmen who may well decide that what they want is the maximum access into the UK, and they may be prepared to be quite forgiving, as it were.

"The people we will be conducting this negotiation with will be the political leaders of the European Union, and their parliaments, so this is going to be a negotiation, in my view, of enormous complexity."