Tony Blair: EU leaders willing to be flexible on free movement

Tony Blair It is essential Brexit does not happenReuters

Blair spoke on the subject after suggesting there was room for compromise on the free movement of people in an article for his own think-tank, the Institute for Global Change.

Tony Blair argues that the election of the French president Emmanuel Macron has changed the european dynamic.

"European leaders, after discussions that I have had, are willing to consider changes to go in the direction of the United Kingdom, including the freedom of movement".

Blair's comments are at odds with the EU's negotiating stance, which stresses there can be no "cherry picking" from the benefits of membership of the EU's single market without accepting freedom of movement for European Union workers. "The opposition to free movement of people, once you break it down, is much more nuanced".

"I think it's absolutely necessary that it doesn't happen because I think every day is bringing us fresh evidence that it's damage economically", he told Sky News' Sophie Ridge on Sunday programme.

Blair said in interviews that the option of reversing Brexit must be kept on the table, claiming large numbers of the population do not back a so-called hard exit of the EU.

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.

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When former prime minister David Cameron made cutting EU immigration the focus of a deal he demanded before holding the referendum a year ago, other European governments argued London could do more within existing EU rules to limit arrivals.

He said 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 half way", wrote Blair.

Warning that the Tories would not make the same mistakes in future campaigns, Blair said the Labour Party would need to fill the "progressive centre" with "a radical policy agenda".

"If a right wing populist punch in the form of Brexit was followed by a left wing populist punch in the form of unreconstructed hard left economics, Britain would hit the canvas, flat on our back and be out for a long count", Blair said.

He also took a few jabs at his Labour successor, Jeremy Corbyn by saying he won't be able to deliver on a "jobs first" pledge.

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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