Tony Blair at Davos: Brits Will Reject Brexit Because UK ‘Needs’ EU Migrants

Tony Blair
PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has claimed the British people could reject Brexit when they realise the UK “needs” EU migrants, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The former Labour Party leader also admitted the bloc would be diminished politically and economically when the UK leaves, speaking to Bloomberg TV on Wednesday morning.

Questioned on if he thought Brexit could be blocked with a second referendum, he said: “You could have a general election. If we do go through with Brexit – and I hope we don’t – it’s going to be a complete change and we will have to fashion a new future for the country.”

He claimed that the post-Brexit deal reached with the EU will be bad, adding: “I think it will be very difficult to persuade people that’s better than what we have now.”

“It’s important to emphasise that Brexit is a problem for Britain but it’s a problem for Europe,” he continued, appearing to recognise reasons for the bloc to offer the UK a good trade deal after the divorce.

Adding: “Europe will be diminished. It will be weaker without the strength of the British economy, we’re the largest economy in Europe. And it will be politically weaker.

“This is what people voted for in 2016, but the question is will they hold to that position once they see what the alternative is to the present European Union membership.”

Mr. Blair also said there was an impending “dilemma”, or trade-off, between accessing EU markets and accepting EU regulations and open borders, which would lead people to reject Brexit.

He said: “I think as these negotiations develop and that dilemma becomes clear, then there will be even some people who voted Leave that will say:

“‘Why are we going to leave if actually we now know we need most of the European migrants, we’re going to have to abide by most of the European rules and obviously there is going to be a long-term economic cost of Brexit?’”

Despite the UK population recently hitting a new record high, immigration and birth rate projections have fallen in recent years, especially since the Brexit vote.

Much of change is due to a slowing of EU arrivals. In August, the ONS said the number of EU migrants coming to the UK fell by 51,000 in the 12 months to March 2017, just months after the Brexit vote in June 2016.

Research by Migration Watch UK, published in October last year, found “no evidence” that companies require a “continuing free-for-all” access to EU migrants to maintain the workforce in lower skilled jobs.

“Some claims might reflect a desire by employers to continue to offer low pay, poor conditions and little flexibility,” the document claimed.

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