Former U.K. Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair warned his Tory successor, David Cameron, that talk of leaving the European Union is “dangerous” and “immensely damaging to Britain’s long-term interest.”
Blair said today’s generation of politicians needs to know that “the short-term best politics pulls always in the opposite direction from the best long-term policy.” He was speaking to journalists at a lunch in Parliament in London today, his second political engagement in Britain in less than a month after keeping his distance from domestic affairs for most of the five years since he left office.
Cameron, under pressure from lawmakers in his Conservative Party who want to pull out of the EU, has promised a referendum on the issue. He told lawmakers yesterday that it was “imaginable” that Britain could leave the bloc, though that was not his preference.
“One of the things that has alarmed me in different parts of the world is there’s a very large question people are asking -- the first question actually -- ‘are you guys seriously going to get out of Europe?”’ Blair said. He said going for a referendum was “a major, major thing.”
Asked about the suggestion that other EU countries would give Britain “a free pass” on which rules it wanted to obey within the bloc, he said “that’s not going to happen.”
One Conservative lawmaker, Michael Fabricant, proposed an electoral pact on Nov. 26 with the U.K. Independence Party, based on a pledge of a full “in-out” referendum on British membership of the EU. Cameron’s office rejected the suggestion. UKIP, which seeks an exit from the EU, has no lawmakers in the House of Commons, though it’s currently attracting the support of about 8 percent of respondents in opinion polls.
Blair rejected UKIP as “a party built on scapegoating, not solutions, on the idea that our problem is Europe or foreigners” and warned the Conservatives against a pact with them. “I would be very hesitant about trading policy with UKIP,” he said.