Published: Sun, July 16, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

European Union could be flexible over movement: Tony Blair

European Union could be flexible over movement: Tony Blair

The former prime minister said there was no evidence that Britons wanted to pay a high economic price for Brexit, and so, he argues, "A majority would probably coalesce around a "soft" Brexit".

"The European leaders, certainly from my discussions, are willing to consider changes to accommodate Britain, including around freedom of movement", the former Labour prime minister said in an article published by his Institute for Global Change. On freedom of movement, the principle is indivisible.

Mr Blair's article was published alongside polling which suggested 70% of Britons would support free movement if it was reformed to mean European Union citizens would not have an automatic right to move to a country without a job offer, and if there were stricter controls on welfare.

"I think it's possible now that Brexit doesn't happen", Blair said on "Sophy Ridge on Sunday" to be broadcast by Sky News, the network tweeted.

Mr Blair suggested the "will of the people" may be changing as the difficulties of Brexit negotiations become apparent and called for a "proper debate" over the different options, including remaining in a reformed EU.

Many Western EU leaders are indeed concerned to limit free movement only to workers - as specified in the EU treaty.

The shadow chancellor was responding to comments the former Prime Minister made in relation to Labour's objectives for the deal.

On Brexit, Mr Blair said: "If Labour continues to be for leaving the single market, and the signs are that it will, then we are essentially for the same policy as the Government".

"Rational consideration of the options would sensibly include the option of negotiating for Britain to stay within a Europe itself prepared to reform and meet us halfway", Blair, who was prime minister from 1997 to 2007, wrote.

Mr Blair has admitted Labour defied his predictions and secured a remarkable result at last month's General Election under Mr Corbyn's leadership, which has raised the party's hopes of returning to power.

But Britain under a Corbyn-led government could "hit the canvas, flat on our back" if it adopted hard-left economics, Blair said.

Mr Corbyn suggested Mr Blair would recognise the support both he and US Senator Bernie Sanders, a fellow anti-austerity campaigner, enjoy indicates there's a thirst to do things very differently with a more inclusive, more socially just, more egalitarian approach to the world rather than just subsidising the very rich.

Blair warned the party he led for 13 years that, however unexpectedly good the party's showing in the 8 June election, it could not automatically expect victory soon.

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