Tony Blair waded into the general election campaign today claiming David Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum on EU membership will produce “chaos” and “unpredictability” in the UK economy. The pro-European former prime minister said leaving the EU would render the country “a parochial bystander” without global ambition.
In a speech delivered in his former constituency of Sedgefield, Mr Blair claimed the suggestion of a Brexit would put jobs at risk and major investment decisions will be postponed. He also praised Ed Miliband’s “real leadership on the EU” before going on to express his admiration for the Labour leader whom he called “his own man with his own convictions and determined to follow them, even when they go against the tide”.
In the speech Tony Blair said: “Think of the chaos produced by the possibility, never mind the reality, of Britain quitting Europe. Jobs that are secure suddenly insecure; investment decisions postponed or cancelled; a pall of unpredictability hanging over the British economy.”
He continued: “A decision to exit Europe would say a lot about us, and none of it good: that an adventurous country has become a timid one; that one with global ambitions has opted to be a parochial bystander; that a country known for its openness to the world shuts the open door nearest to it; that a nation which has built its history on confidence towards others defines itself by resentment to others; that, with all the challenges of the world crowding in upon us, demanding strong and clear leadership, instead of saying ‘here’s where the world should go’, we say ‘count us out’.”
In a statement, the Conservative Party said Mr Blair had “no credibility” on the EU. “He gave away Britain’s rebate, now he wants to deny the British people their say on the European Union”, it said. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, told the BBC that the need to bring in Tony Blair at this stage was telling. She said: “It shows the weakness of Ed Miliband that Labour has had to bring Tony Blair into the fray at this point.”
Blair has not always been so positive about Ed Miliband. In the Economist, he cast doubt on Ed Miliband’s chances of winning the next election. He said it could well be an election “in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result”.
Asked if he meant a Conservative win, Mr Blair said “Yes, that is what happens”. Despite his scepticism he has donated £1000 each to 106 Labour candidates across the country.
UKIPs economics spokesman, Patrick O’Flynn, hit back at Blair’s claims on the BBC: