Tony Blair says that Britain’s departure from the European Union is not etched in stone.
According to CNN, in an interview with the New Statesman news medium, the former British prime minister said the process could be halted.
“It can be stopped if the British people decide that, having seen what it means, the pain-gain cost-benefit analysis doesn’t stack up,” Blair told the magazine.
The former Labour Party boss believes that parliament — or the British people — will in the end be allowed to pass judgment on the specific exit deal negotiated with the EU.
That puts him at odds with Prime Minister Theresa May, who has rejected calls for a second referendum, while insisting that “Brexit means Brexit.” She’s also appealing a court ruling that parliament should have a vote before the formal exit negotiations begin.
May has committed to triggering the legal exit process by the end of March. That will set off two years of frantic negotiations over the terms of Britain’s exit from the trading bloc.
Blair makes the case for a public evaluation of whatever deal is negotiated. Will Britain retain access to the EU’s giant free trade area? Or will it be forced to go it alone and negotiate new trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world?
“Why wouldn’t you keep your options open? Why wouldn’t you say, ‘We took this decision, we took it before we saw what its consequences are; now we see its consequences, we’re not so sure?’ ” he asked.
The public got its first official look at the cost of Brexit on Wednesday. The U.K. will be forced to borrow an extra £58.7 billion ($72.6 billion) over the next five years because of an economic slowdown triggered by the exit, according to estimates published by the Office of Budget Responsibility.