Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair wants the U.K. to rethink its decision to leave the European Union. He’s launched a campaign to persuade the U.K. to stay, saying those who want to remain should rise up.
Blair argues that the Conservative government’s drive to leave the EU “at any cost” will hurt future generations and damage the unity of the country itself.
In a speech in London, he said last year’s vote to leave the 28-nation bloc was “based on imperfect knowledge” and that Britons didn’t know the true terms of Brexit.
“As these terms become clear, it is their right to change their mind,” said Blair, the former Labour leader. “Our mission is to persuade them to do so.”
Blair’s intervention reflects the bitter divide that has gripped Britain since the June 23 referendum. While 51.9% voted to leave the EU, the terms were not specified and Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has been reluctant to discuss her plans–fearing that may hurt the U.K.’s bargaining position.
In his speech, Blair spoke on behalf of Open Britain, which is campaigning for the government’s Brexit legislation to be amended. He wants to ensure Parliament has “proper scrutiny” over any deal that May negotiates with EU leaders.
Among the group’s goals is for Britain to remain part of the bloc’s single market, guaranteeing unfettered access to 500 million people.
May has offered only broad outlines of her strategy, with reducing immigration a priority. She has argued that she must keep the Europeans guessing about the U.K.’s negotiation position, but pressure for details has been building as she prepares to invoke Article 50, which will trigger Britain’s departure from the bloc.
It isn’t immediately clear how much support Blair will get in creating a wave of sentiment against May’s plans–the once-popular Labour Party leader suffered a fall from grace after he supported the United States in its intervention in Iraq.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson dismissed Blair’s speech.
Still, Blair said he plans to build alliances across party lines to create a movement that has the weight and reach to fight back. “This is not the time for retreat, indifference or despair,” he said, “but the time to rise up in defence for what we believe.”