Comment Editor Alex Cirant-Taljaard offers his opinion on George Osborne's recent appointment as the editor of The Evening StandardWritten by Alex Cirant-Taljaard on 23rd March 2017
Comment writer Amelia Hiller argues that despite his conscience, Tony Blair should keep his mouth shut over Brexit
On the 23rd June 2016, the British public voted in a referendum to determine whether Britain would remain a member of the European Union, and their decision was to leave. That much is clear, but what faces us now is carrying this process out. Theresa May and our current Conservative government have taken on the task of completing a ‘hard Brexit’ in order to align with the democratic wishes of the British population. However, this month ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair continues an incessant rhetoric against this process, declaring that the current government is a ‘mono-purpose political entity’, hell-bent on achieving only one thing: Brexit.
To those who are pro-Brexit, Blair is the most bitter of the Remain camp, and continues to embarrass himself in his calls for a second referendum to allow the British population to re-think their decision. Opening his speech at an Open Britain event in London on the 17th February, Blair stated ‘I want to be explicit…I accept right now there is no widespread appetite to re-think. But the people voted without knowledge of the terms of Brexit.’ Boris Johnson, current Foreign Secretary and notorious leader of the Leave camp attacked Blair’s view, accusing him of insulting the intelligence of the British population.
“Blair makes some extremely valid points regarding the lies which formed the basis of the leave campaign
This is simply not the case. Blair makes some extremely valid points regarding the lies which formed the basis of the leave campaign, and while he may come across as condescending, there must be some integrity in his argument. This integrity can be seen in his statements regarding immigration. Whilst net immigration to the United Kingdom was 335,000 between June 2015 and June 2016, just over 50% of these cases were outside of the European Union, including those from Syria. Out of the European immigrants, Blair states that the dominant occupation among them is within London’s catering industry, and hence emphasises the fact that it is ‘highly unlikely…that they are taking the jobs of British-born people in other parts of the country’. Therefore, while the primacy of Brexit lies in this one consideration, it is accentuated that ‘Brexit does not affect the immigration people most care about’. This does indicate that there is a clear gap in public knowledge regarding Brexit, and therefore we cannot confuse a valid point with a condescending nature.
In addition, it is arguable that Blair’s calls for a second referendum are not completely ridiculous. Whilst Johnson stated that the British public remain ‘very firmly in favour’ of leaving the European Union, this was never the case. Only 52% of voters chose to leave in the first place, which is by no means a decisive victory, and with the fragility of the argument to leave increasing day-by-day, this 52% is likely to continue to dwindle as the government progress towards a hard Brexit.
“Whether Blair’s speech resonates or not, he is simply not right to speak in this way about Brexit
Despite the convincing nature of Blair’s argument, the fact remains that a second referendum can never be held. Blair makes some extremely valid points regarding the lies which formed the basis of the leave campaign, and while he may come across as condescending, there must be some integrity in his argument. To overthrow this decision now would be to promote a deep-rooted hypocrisy within government, even greater than the hypocrisy of May’s position given that just nine months ago she was opposed to leaving the European Union, though is now the prime advocate of the rubric emphasising a need to ‘take back control’.
Whether Blair’s speech resonates or not, he is simply not right to speak in this way about Brexit. The British people have exercised their democratic right, and the chance that we will remain a member of the European Union is slim. His involvement can only really do one thing, and that is to highlight the damage to our country which ‘Brexit at any cost’ will cause, and to attempt to slow the rapid ‘rush over the cliff’s edge’ for the government to take stock of Britain’s position regarding the European Union.