Friday, 29 June 2018

Brexit Britain is no country for an old Prime Minister called Tony Blair

Like ex prime-Minister John Major, Tony Blair has gravitas. They have earned it : John served as Conservative Prime Minister for seven years at the tail-end of the twentieth century, before Tony took over for his ten year stint in 1997. In the length of his tenure he stands as 9th in the list of Britain's 54 Prime Ministers since Britain's first, Robert Walpole in the 18th century and although his reputation was damaged by his decision to go to war with Iraq, his achievements in office were considerable, not the least, his achievement of peace in Northern Ireland after 30 years of bloodshed.

On Wednesday he delivered his Chatham House speech and weighed into the Brexit debate by reflecting on the state of the Brexit talks :

“I have never been more worried about the future of our country than now, with competing emotions of anxiety and rage. We have a government whose every move is a calculation not about the interests of the nation, but the internal balance of advantage between the factions of the Conservative party, with the Prime Minister more a hostage than a leader. Meanwhile, the leader of the Labour party neglects to lead the fight here at home over an issue which literally determines the future of Britain and where he could  play a decisive role.”

Chatham House in the 18th-century house in St James's Square once occupied by three of his predecessors as Prime Minister, including William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. It is now the home of The Royal Institute of International Affairs, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation based in London whose mission is to analyse and promote the understanding of major international issues and current affairs.

He also said, on the issue of Brexit : "I am afraid I get bored with people telling me they’re bored of it. If it is by consensus the most important decision we have taken as a country since World War 2, then our preoccupation with it must continue until one way or another it is finally decided."

"The debate on Brexit has naturally focused on the economic fall-out. But the political effect of Britain leaving the European Union may be worse. At a stroke, Britain loses its position in the world’s largest commercial market and biggest political union. America loses its foremost ally which has often been a bridge between the two sides of the Alliance."

"Of course, the Brexiteers will argue that Britain can still be the USA’s greatest ally outside the EU. But examine the reality. Since the referendum, is Britain closer to the USA? Is the relationship stronger? On a global issue, who is the American President calling first on the continent of Europe – the British Prime Minister?"

"Presently, we are drifting towards March 2019 with no clear negotiating position, no resolution of the Northern Ireland question, still vaguely hoping Europe will allow us access to the Single Market without abiding by its rules which it will never do, and with senior Cabinet members openly debating the merits of a negotiating position which ‘threatens’ Europe with a no deal Brexit which is the equivalent of holding a negotiation on the top floor of a high rise building and ‘threatening’ to jump out of the window if our demands are not met."

"The whole thing has become so protracted that it has numbed our outrage."

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