Britain and EU should prepare for second Brexit referendum – Blair

Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair attends an event at Thomson Reuters in London, Britain, October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

LONDON (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will say on Friday that Britain and the European Union should prepare for a second Brexit referendum because parliament will probably fail to agree on a divorce deal and the public will need to break the deadlock.

Less than four months before Britain is due to leave the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May called off a parliamentary vote on her deal with Brussels this week after admitting it would be heavily defeated.

Addressing EU leaders meeting in Brussels, Blair said they should offer to reform the bloc to make it more attractive for Britain to remain.

“Now should be the time of preparation – parliament to make sure it can canvass the options in (a) sensible manner, one by one, to reach agreement on an option or a referendum; Europe to ensure that if Britain is ready to think again, Europe is ready also to think again,” Blair, who was Labour prime minister from 1997 to 2007, will say in a speech in London.

Blair’s office released extracts of the speech in advance.

An offer by the EU to reform would show “that the political leadership of Europe and Britain had listened to the underlying concerns of those who voted (for) Brexit, not disrespecting the concerns but meeting them in a way which is not damaging”.

Blair has repeatedly called for reversing Brexit since the 2016 referendum, echoing other critics, including French President Emmanuel Macron, who have suggested Britain could still change its mind.

Blair will say it is perverse that the Britain and the EU are preparing for a potentially economically damaging Brexit without any deal, but not another referendum.

“We know the options for Brexit. Parliament will have to decide on one of them. If Parliament can’t then it should decide to go back to the people.”

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