Tony Blair must be silenced

Do you know anyone who doesn’t hate Tony Blair? The most I can say in his favour is that I know a couple of people who loathe certain other politicians even more than they loathe him. Most people wish he would just shut up and retire to obscurity but unfortunately, being an ex-Prime Minister, the media is still more than willing to listen to what he says – and as far as Brexit is concerned, he has been rather verbose recently.

His latest outburst shows that he remains stubbornly opposed to the government carrying out the democratic will of the people.  He doesn’t want us to leave the EU. Even though much of the article focuses on the problems of a future trade relationship, his  support for the EU goes beyond trade issues. “Membership of the European Union is right as a matter of principle, for profound political as well as economic reasons.” he asserts. He goes on to say “We are making an error the contemporary world cannot understand and the generations of the future will not forgive….Brexit isn’t and never was the answer.”

Naturally, we would disagree, but if Blair and his ilk are to be silenced once and for all, two things are necessary. Firstly,  his arguments in favour of the general principle of EU membership have to be refuted, but secondly, the government must address the current weaknesses in its Brexit strategy.

The first of Blair’s points, namely that EU membership is a good thing politically as well as economically, is so fatally flawed  that no fair-minded well informed person could possibly agree.  Thanks to our EU membership, we have found ourselves unnecessarily mixed up in the EU’s empire building – for example, in the Ukraine, a part of the world where we have little strategic interest. We have found our excellent Common Law legal system compromised by our membership of  Europol or the European Arrest Warrant. Furthermore, the direction of travel in the EU is towards closer integration, which means in effect power will be taken still further away from the people and their elected representatives,  given instead to a largely unelected and increasingly unaccountable clique of bureaucrats and politicians in Brussels.

In 2012, Angela Merkel told David Cameron, “Your vision of the EU is so cold, David.’ The point she was making is that for most of us, including our former Prime Minister, the EU was about trade. We have always been sceptical about grandiose political projects.  and thus have always felt on the outside of the EU, most of whose member states do not share our scepticism. Only a few senior British politicians have ever embraced the EU’s federalism wholeheartedly. One of these few, however, was Blair’s mentor Roy Jenkins, the only Briton ever to lead the European Commission. As Prime Minister, Blair never felt himself in a position to display his federalist sympathies quite so openly as Jenkins but now Brexit looks like extinguishing the dying embers of his megalomaniac ambitions of becoming Emperor Tony the First, he clearly feels he has nothing to lose.

For those of us living in the real world, however, it is blindingly obvious that our political system needs to be reformed so that we digress further from the EU. In other words, power should be brought closer to the people – taking non-EU Switzerland as our model, which has one of the most accountable systems of government in the world. Indeed, we should seek to become the leader of Free Europe, as we were between 1940 and 1945, showing that there is a better way for countries to organise themselves than to emasculate their national democracies in favour of a remote, unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels. We can do far more good and wield far more influence internationally this way than by remaining in the EU. The future generations, far from being unwilling to forgive us for Brexit, will be delighted that by leaving the EU, we made not only our country, but other lands too, a better place. Blair’s argument that Brexit was an unfortunate mistake will, unless the Government messes up badly, prove to be about as accurate as his conviction that Saddam Hussein possessed a vast stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

Unfortunately, our opportunities to help the government address the weaknesses of its Brexit strategy (and thus avoid making a mess of Brexit) are more limited, but we must do what we can. Blair outlines four possible outcomes:- staying what he calls a “reformed Europe”, leaving the EU but staying within the Single Market and Customs Union, leaving the EU but negotiating a bespoke Free trade agreement which “keeps us  close to Europe politically” or leaving the EU and “negotiating a basic Free Trade Agreement and market ourselves as ‘Not Europe’”.

As far as the first option is concerned,  the Conservative Party has spent much of the last 30 years trying to “reform” the European Union. last year’s “State of the Union” speech by Jean-Claude Juncker and the strongly pro-federalist speech by Martin Schulz a couple of months later  shows how deeply federalism which, above all, led to the Brexit vote, is still embedded into the EU’s DNA. Perhaps Blair has forgotten that for all his talk of our “staying in the EU, using the Brexit vote as leverage to achieve reform” that David Cameron did come back from Brussels with some degree of reform nearly two years ago.  He secured a sort-of exemption from ever closer union and a very weak concession that the EU might allow a limited “emergency brake” on immigration. The majority of the electorate wasn’t impressed and voted to leave. 18 months on, there has been no indication of any widespread change of heart.

The way Blair frames the second option, he is either being devious or just plain stupid. Like a number of other remainers, he portrays the single market and the customs union as somehow joined at the hip. They are not. Staying in the EEA as a transitional arrangement would be a vast improvement on the transitional deal currently being discussed, which would leave us as a colony of the EU with no power. The Customs Union, on the other hand, was never even discussed during the referendum debate. Apart from micro-states like San Marino, Turkey is the only non-EU country to be part of the Customs Union. The Turks do not like this deal and given that we would not be able to secure an independent trade policy, it wold not be popular here either. It is an irrelevancy and the sooner it falls out of any discussion of our future, the better.

Blair’s third and fourth options are more about politics than trade. Both assume we end up with a bespoke deal with the EU. Do we want to stay politically close to the EU or deliberately launch out on a different path? In reality, rather than a binary choice, the question should be phrased more on the lines of whereabouts on the scale of political closeness or political divergence do we wish to position ourselves? The answer is probably far closer to the “divergence” end of the spectrum than Blair would wish, as has been noted above.

Unfortunately, the muddle which the Government has found itself in may result in our ending up stuck in limbo between options 1 and 2 – a transitional deal which sees us effectively locked into the EU for a further 21 months and which gives us access to the Single Market but on far worse terms than Norway or Iceland. It is staggering that there has so far been so little critical analysis of the proposed transitional deal, as it is a very bad arrangement indeed. Somehow, the EU’s harsh guidelines have been completely ignored by many politicians and indeed, much of the media. As mentioned above, we would essentially end up as a colony of the EU, forced to accept the full acquis but with no say in the framing or implementation of these laws.  In such circumstances, it would be all too easy to end up saying “What was the point of the Brexit vote?”

To throw in the towel is exactly what Blair and co would love us to do. No one can deny that the last 18 months have been exasperating and there is still little light at the end of the tunnel as far as a sensible exit strategy is concerned. If you are a leave voter who has become utterly fed up with the whole subject of Brexit, take heart; you are not alone! Perhaps, however, we should think back to that momentous day in June 2016. Our elation at the time should act as a reminder that we must not give up, no matter how frustrated we feel at the moment. To allow the likes of Blair to win by default, especially given the weaknesses of his arguments, would be the ultimate tragedy for our countrymen and a betrayal of all  that we have fought for over the last four decades. Blair can only finally be silenced by persevering to the end, continuing to make the case for Brexit, seeking to influence the debate on how best to achieve the best deal – and persevere we must and shall.

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12 comments

  1. Adam HileyReply

    I cannot understand why this obnoxious and arrogant Man just will not go away one of Britain’s most loathed Premier’s far worse than Mrs Thatcher ever was even Trump would nothing to do with Phoney Bliar

    • StevenReply

      If ever there was to be a case for the merits of capital punishment Tony Bliar would be it. How convenient then that one of his first actions upon becoming our PM was to formally abolish the last remaining means you could be legally executed ie the crime of High Treason in 1998’s Crime and Disorder Act. I hope I am not sounding a bit arrogant here or ‘blowing my own trumpet’ but I knew he was a ‘wrong ‘un’ right from the very word go when I first clapped sight upon him as Labour’s new leader in 1994. You should NEVER trust anyone so full of him or herself!

  2. Phil JonesReply

    John, the problem is that if the UK went into the EEA as a ‘transitional arrangement’ as you propose, there is no doubt that such arrangement would become permanent. As I see things, Brexit has to be carried through the way that most of us were considering when we voted — as a complete political break from the European Union. The EEA members are still tied to the European Union, albeit to a lesser extent than the Member States. As I understand it, Switzerland as an EEA member is having loads of problems — with the EU dictating that Switzerland has to allow persons from Member States the right of entry, i.e. freedom of movement. Also, EEA members have to deal with third countries under EU regulations — just like Member States. So the EEA is not freedom from the EU. It would leave the UK stuck halfway — half in and half out of the EU. Certainly not what I voted for — through Big Business would probably love it. Who were in the voting booths on 23 June 2016? Was it those humans entitled to vote or was it corporate execs who wanted some halfway solution. I think it was Brits like me who had put up with Project Fear and all that Big Business could throw at us — and still voted for the UK to LEAVE. And LEAVE to me and every voter I have spoken with since (Leaver or Remainer) meant the UK leaving the EU fully and returning to being a self-governing independent country with no more political ties to the EU than have the US, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, and other ‘third countries’. Maybe our differences center around whether the EEA members are (1) politically tied to the EU as well as tied in terms of trade, or (2) tied in terms of trade only. To me it’s clear that (1) applies. You just have to see the EU threatening Switzerland at present on various matters to see that EEA is more than a simple trading agreement with the EU — such as CETA. I can’t see Mrs. May going for EFTA/ EEA. If she did I believe you’d see loads of opposition.. And to get back to my initial point, whatever the UK agrees on leaving the EU is what will be a permanent new arrangement. No one will have the courage/strength to try and change it again. So if we settle for a halfway house, that’s where the UK will end up for the long future. If we get out completely, options for ties in future (such as EFTA/EEA down the road) remain fully open. If we get out in a halfway fashion (EFTA/EEA for Brexit), that’s what we’ll be stuck with permanently. So no EFTA/EEA as part of Brexit!

    • Ken WhittakerReply

      Phil, my heart agrees with you but my head says that EFTA is the only way to avoid a possible catastrophe. I honestly can’t see a solution to the Irish border question without it. And, as EFTA’s biggest and most powerful member, we can influence the future of European trade policy for decades to come. And much greater control over freedom of movement is possible (as with Lichtenstein). Had Cameron offered it we would have snatched his hand off and he would still be PM. As for Blair, I know of no other PM, other than possibly Heath, that has damaged our country more.

    • StevenReply

      Your points about the EEA are very well articulated. Yes, when we voted to Leave on June 23rd 2016 I am sure that few if any wanted the UK to be stuck in a permanent ‘half-way house’ arrangement which to my mind is the worse of all worlds and pretty much negates the essential purpose of leaving ie returning to being a fully sovereign and independent country once again where we can control our borders however we like, vary our economic and trade policies to our heart’s content ect.

  3. Edward SpaltoReply

    Phil,
    Switzerland is not in the EEA. It is in EFTA. Its own arrangements with the EU, negotiated over about 16 years on a case by case basis, are extremely cumbersome. If you want to know about the possibilies and drawbacks of the EEA, then Google FLEXCIT. There is a forty page (approx) short version and a four hundred plus page full version. I would also recommend Googling BREXIT MONOGRAPHS for a factual account of different aspects of the way EU regulation fits into the world picture. There is no great big, unregulated world out there . The intention always was to use these arrangements as a temporary way station out of the EU.

    In our parliamentary system as it exists, we are always only one Act of Parliament away from something like the EU. The regular use of referendums at the people’s insistence – not the government’s ( as in Switzerland) is one way of correcting this situation, suggested in the HARROGATE AGENDA. I think you can Google that. If not, send your postal address to the website and I will send you the details. I am not saying any of this is ideal but it is achievable in an imperfect world and based on deeply researched fact concerning the structures of the EU, WTO etc. From what is printed in the press or broadcast, very few politicians and commentators have bothered to research in depth. They often make the most elementary mistakes.
    Having been opposed to the EEC/EU since 1972, I would love it if we could just wave a magic wand and be rid of it – but I haven’t found one yet! Please tell me, if you get one!

    WITH REGARD TO TONY BLAIR – He is so widely hated that he probably helps the cause of independence every time he speaks. Back in early 2005, I attended a large meeting of pensioners – de facto, a Labour Party fiefdom. There was a large platform of MPs, MEPs and Councillors who were trying to get the pensioners on message for the forthcoming election of that year.
    EVERY TIME one of the platform party MENTIONED TONY BLAIR, THE PENSIONERS ALL HISSED . They hated his guts. I think it is this sentiment which has helped Mr Corbyn so much.

  4. robin LambertReply

    The Uncertainty has been Created by Keir Starmer(Labour) Dominic Grieve(Conservative), the Bank of England
    Governor Mark carney(he sits on billions of Euros bought in May 1998 by gordon Brown)….
    Jobs Lost in Car Industry are blamed on ”Brexit” by The guardian,Daily Mirror,The Observer,The New Statesman,The Evening Standard etc….but Not A decade of Shrinking Incomes & inflation…
    Exiting the EU would be Easier if Sky news,& BBC showed rows of Unemployed Youths in Spain,Germany,Italy.
    People letting their pets Go on streets in Greece..

  5. Adrian WhiteReply

    In addition to existing political parties and groups, an international association needs to be created that is dedicated to the destruction of the European Union, something that would resemble in its organization a Communist international of the late nineteenth century. Countries were not liberated from the Soviet Union by voting to leave, but by the dissolution of that empire. Whereas some are concerned merely with Great Britain’s relationship with the European Union, others may wish to address the ideological questions raised by the existence of a body (the European Union) that assumes powers that are the right of every member of the United Nations and that, lacking the power either to declare war or have war declared on it, nevertheless seeks to possess an army that can attack its neighbours.

  6. Gordon WebsterReply

    Can’t disagree with anything said about Blair, except that he is so reviled that any and all interference by him brings more people to the Brexit Fold. Jacob Rees-Mogg is reported as saying, that we do no have to wait for 2019 to leave the EU, we could leave now.
    The problem as I see it, is our own political elite who don’t want to leave. We cannot forget that Heath knowingly lied about the Common Market, and illegally signed the Accession Treaty without the consent of Parliament, or The People. Nor can we ever forget that Labour, with their Referendum on staying in the Common Market, compounded that lie – Lord Kilmuir’s Letter, and FCO 30/1048 being the proof source.
    Politics in this country has lost all credibility with the voter. This is not new, the loss of faith in the Law has been going on since Dicey’s time, as he reports in his ” An Introduction To The Study Of The English Constitution.”
    Perhaps the only thing that will reverse that loss of Faith and Trust, is withdrawal from The EU, as the Sovereign British People instructed Government in the Leave Vote.
    The British People will take just so much, then I fear a massive backlash in the not to distant future, if politicians continue to treat the Sovereign People with such open disrespect.

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