There are valid criticisms of Blair but his view on Brexit is hard to critiqueMark Muller

Tony Blair is a strange political creature. He is a sad and ugly amalgamation of an ostracised skunk and a benevolent messenger pigeon. Blair is simultaneously one of the most universally vilified figures in British politics, and maybe the only public figure speaking any sense over Brexit. He is in, typically, a unique position. Despite the prudence of the message that Blair has emerged from the private sector to deliver, I fear that his toxic image will lessen its impact.

It’s just another week in the messy, senseless and thoroughly depressing arena that we more commonly refer to as ‘British politics’. It is almost beyond belief to think that Tony Blair has once again entered the political fray, straying from one of his Central London properties to a Central London think tank, to proffer his view on Brexit. The ink has barely dried on the Chilcot Inquiry – which determined that the circumstances in which the legal mandate for his infamous war in Iraq was “far from satisfactory” – and he’s back.

The substance of Blair’s speech is difficult to critique. It seems nothing other than prudent, sensible and pragmatic. Essentially, Blair says that the vote to leave the European Union was “based on imperfect knowledge” and that as the truth of a “Brexit at any cost” becomes apparent “it is their [the electorate’s] right to change their minds”.

Brexit seems to have quickly spiralled into a messy catastrophe. Theresa May, our Prime Minister, who supported remaining in the EU, tells us that we agreed to leave the European single market when we voted on 23rd June 2016. This is heavily contested by many – why would anyone vote to shun our greatest trading partner in favour of trade deals that don’t exist and will take years to transpire if they ever do?

There are many valid criticisms of Blair. His tenure as Prime Minister was very much tarnished by his skulduggery with President Bush in Iraq. Equally, his post-political life has been mired by greed and lathered in irony: he earned £600,000 for a three-hour meeting between mining conglomerates in Qatar, while also in position as Middle East Peace Envoy. However, on Brexit, Blair is a saviour.

“The sad truth is that Brexit has morphed into a hideous concoction of nationalistic fervour and fatalistic commitment to carry out the ‘will of the people’”

In his speech, Blair lashed out at Theresa May and Phillip Hammond, remarking how today Brexit is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for greatness”, while just a few months ago they were warning of the perils of Brexit. Blair is right to point out the remarkable malleability of Britain’s leading politicians. The fact that they are so whimsically prepared to give up what they believe in order to heighten their political position is indicative of the lack of political capital and fortitude that exists in our society.

This is in the same vein as an arrogant David Cameron, who prioritised resolving a party dispute over the British working and middle classes who economically depend upon the EU. Worse still, Cameron didn’t have the gumption to make a positive case for the EU, instead using his right hand man Osborne to spread a hyperbolic message about the dire economic consequences of Brexit.

The fact that we must rely on Blair to bring attention to these facts is worrying. Where are the parliamentarians delivering succinct and pragmatic suggestions about how to stop this inexorable fall towards a Brexit that will potentially be catastrophic for the sectors of our society least able to weather such a storm?

Where is Jeremy Corbyn? And what exactly is he doing to hold the government to account on Brexit? Where is evidence of Corbyn forging a vision of Brexit which doesn’t harm Britain’s economic and social interests? As ever, Corbyn is effectively non-existent.

The fact that Corbyn responded to Blair’s speech by saying that it wasn’t “helpful” and that “the referendum gave a very clear decision” is a diabolical response. Evidently Corbyn has failed to grasp exactly what it is that Blair was saying, let alone the fact that it should have been Corbyn giving this speech in the first place.

The sad truth is that Brexit has morphed into a hideous concoction of nationalistic fervour and fatalistic commitment to carry out the ‘will of the people’ (which is apparently overwhelming despite a 52–48 vote with a 72 per cent turnout, suggesting a fairly meek mandate to do anything, let alone something as consequential as leaving the EU and single market).

The notion that we should carry this through to the bloody end and sever the UK from the European community so that we can float into economic destitution, because of a questionable mandate delivered during a referendum that was inundated with misinformation and lies, is absurd.

Blair’s intervention in the Brexit debate is evidence of politics, not just in Britain but around the world, having descended into a state of reductio ad absurdum. While Blair isn’t the solution to our woes, I feel gratitude for his message.

Such pragmatism has become increasingly elusive in our discourse – we must relish it when it comes, irrespective of who delivers it