Coffee House

Tony Blair is pessimistic about the chances that Europe will change

15 June 2013

Tony Blair has plenty to say on the crisis in Syria in his interview in today’s Times, as you might expect. But he also makes a few points on other aspects of foreign policy that are worth noting, particularly regarding Europe. The former Prime Minister tells Alice Thompson and Rachel Sylvester that David Cameron was wrong to offer a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. He says:

‘We should at least pause for thought on this. I can tell you, people around the world now ask about this constantly, with an air of incredulity that Britain should even think of such a thing. Europe will be a lot less effective and probably less effectively run if Britain absents itself. If you pull out, that’s a big decision. You’re going to relegate your influence.’

Blair has previously made clear that he doesn’t like the idea of a referendum. His argument today makes several assumptions. The first is that the referendum will inevitably see a victory for the ‘Out’ camp. The second is that, not unlike Lord Lawson, Blair doesn’t see any room for reform in Europe at all. The referendum is simply an opportunity for Britain to leave, not a way of concentrating the minds of those politicians at the negotiating table.

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Blair doesn’t seem to think that the threat of Britain leaving Europe because it is currently ineffectual will make European leaders sit up and worry. On this, he shares the worries of those who want to leave now. He thinks nothing will change, and that this will lead to Britain voting to leave, although he clearly believes that staying in at all costs is better. But if European leaders find that they, like Angela Merkel, cannot imagine Europe without Britain, they should also then find reform more attractive. Or so goes the argument of the reforming eurosceptic, at least. Those reforming eurosceptics in the Fresh Start Project, who have been holding talks in a number of European cities, remain optimistic. They believe they do have a chance to make Europe more effective and more effectively run, but that currently those descriptions cannot apply.

Mind you, Blair is not the only one: as James reports in his column this week, those with the most experience of European talks don’t think much can come back.

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Show comments
  • evad666

    Read the Road to Wigan Pier Revisted by Stephen Armstrong to see the destruction wreaked on the North under the Lb/Lab Con Party.
    While the North votes along class lines it will always suffer at the hands of London.

  • allymax bruce

    Europe, is the Devil’s playground; Bliar war criminal, Fagin stealing all our savings/pensions, and the Spain football team, pointing to heaven, (Solgado ), as they celebrate another soul-for-sale devil goal. Spain are good at fooling the referee, but their false wins, only are false witnesses. Spain witness their own demise!

  • Nick

    Tony Idiot Blair reminds me of professional footballers.They get paid a lot of money for doing nothing useful.
    And they epitomize all that is wrong with the UK and the way the country is run.

  • paulus

    Its amazing that man could persuade anyone… we need to stay in because its unpersuadable to change.

    Now logic has three component two primary premises that back each other up and then a conclusion.

    He throws the rule book out, the first two premises do not back each other up and then he gives no conclusion. Only the rhetoric of a snake skin saleman can do this. He disorientates people by saying people in the World, moves the boundries of peoples experiences and belief systems, even though he has no concept of geography, and his belief system is about as profound as an early morming piss after a skin full in the pub. satisfying yes but no use to detect prostrate cancer. we could go on a nd on but whats the point, once he lost his soul he is dead already

  • well_chuffed

    Why do the media insist on giving this man his oxygen , just let him go off and collect his millions and ignore him , his views and everything to do with him. I am praying the recent rumours are true but seeing as speculation seems to have stopped , we can probably assume he has taken out a super-injunction.

    • Nick

      Hello Well Chuffed…..Recent rumours?…..Super-injunction? Can you expand?

    • Nick

      Forget it thanks as I’ve just read the story.

  • Maidmarrion

    I’m pretty pessimistic that the “Middle East Peace Envoy” will make any changes in the Middle East ,however I am utterly confident that if it emerges that the MEPE has been dallying with a media moguls mrs. then the MEPEs wife will make BIG changes to the MEPE.

  • Smithersjones2013

    ‘We should at least pause for thought on this. I can tell you, people
    around the world now ask about this constantly, with an air of
    incredulity that Britain should even think of such a thing

    Well so what. What people? Clearly not people of any significance. Perhaps they are failed lying has been con-men like Blair who have been kicked out of office by their own party and then seen their supporters purged from high office.

    Frankly these days what Tony Blair thinks is about as relevant as what Heseltine and Clarke and the rest of the Europhiliac delusionals think. We can all see now how wrong they were and what an abortion the EU really is.

    Did anyone ask what Blair what he thought of the demise of Greek Public Broadcasting?

  • chudsmania

    ‘You’re going to relegate your influence’ . Blair is obviously unaware of QMV. How does influence work with that Blair ? Time to get out of this mess , asap.

  • Tom Tom

    I am terribly pessimistic about the prospects of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair dying a natural death

  • Lady Magdalene

    Who cares if the EU will be a lot less effective and less effectively run if the UK pulls out. That’s THEIR problem.
    The UK will be MORE effective and much better run when our Political Class is once again accountable to the British electorate.
    It isn’t our job to try and make the Kommissars and Socialists of continental Europe. Let them beggar their economies with over-regulation, over taxation and the consequences of their single-currency-folly. They don’t listen when their warned.
    I hope the EU DOES refuse to negotiate; because if they do, they will only agree a fig-leaf so Cameron can pretend to have achieved something substantial.
    Let them refuse – and the case for leaving becomes stronger every single day.

  • pinkgunnergirl

    I don’t understand when people like Blair go on about our ‘influence in the world’, influence who to do what exactly?

    What’s the point of influencing others when you have no power in your own Country? Britain should influence inside our Country and we cannot do that when the EU has the power without accountability it currently has.

    Whether Britain leaves or not, the EU cannot go on as it is. The undemocratic nature is an affront to the people of Europe. Power must be given back to the people, the Germans have some good ideas about a directly elected President and so on.

    • dalai guevara

      ‘Power must be given back to the people’

      What do you mean exactly. Power to the people of city states? Power to do what exactly? Define the gold content of the local thaler, define the length of your local cubit? Which local patriach would sit model to give measurements? Prince Ich Dien or Bojo?

  • alabenn

    Blair a jellyfish who did not have the backbone to remove a man he knew was destroying the country, he even stood up in Parliament and recommended this creature with the big clunking fist.
    Brown certainly used the big clunking fist and smashed the finances of the country for generations.
    Blair is a piece of dung that no self respecting beetle should touch.
    So Ms Hardman why would anyone take any notice of this man has to say.

  • roger

    “A referendum will inevitably see a victory for the out camp”
    Sadly I don’t think that would happen. Cameron would get a minor concession and
    lead a stay in campaign. This would be heavily endorsed by the majority of MPs,
    most newspapers, big business, the BBC and lots of European money. The majority will be frightened into voting for the status quo.

    • Fergus Pickering

      No they won’t.

    • ScaryBiscuits

      If the Blair. Cameron, the BBC and the rest of the mandarin class were confident of that we’d have had a referendum ages ago.

      • roger

        I agree they may not be confident enough at the moment. However us outers don’t have a big majority even now and it’s getting smaller. By 2017 if we get that far I can’t believe that the weight of the opposition won’t be overwhelming to public opinion. I hate to say it but its true.

        • ScaryBiscuits

          It’s not getting smaller. There was one poll which showed a much smaller majority immediately after all the paid-sock puppets campaign to stay in but even that only showed a reduced majority; overall the polls have been fairly consistently in favour of out. That’s not to say the Establishment couldn’t pull off manipulating public opinion as they have in other EU countries (which is the main reason for not voting for Cameron even if you believe his referendum promise). However, unless you believe the EU has solved its financial crisis and everything will get better soon, then underlying public opinion is only going one way – towards the exit.

  • HookesLaw

    Blair’s comments show why its a very good thing that we have a Tory PM and why its important that we have a Tory govt after 2015
    How stupid will it be to let Labour back in
    Europhile Labour

    • Abhay

      What about Cameron, Clarke etc?
      Not in the Europhile league?

    • an ex-tory voter

      The is sweet f all difference between the outcome of Cameron’s bogus EU scepticism and Blair’s better off in policy. A vote for either Cameron or Labour is a vote to further damage our economy and to further erode our sovereignty and national identity.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    I see you Speccie teenagers appear to be promulgating the Cameroons’ latest verbal trickery, something about some phony “fresh start” project.

    That trickery seems to be something similar to all the clamor you all fabricated regarding some “big speech” a while back, a “big speech” that was so obviously sure to cure all things EU, forever and ever, amen, go in peace and vote Cameroon.

    Amazing, the rhetorical power of the Dave, isn’t it?

    Unfortunately, that marketing effort fell apart for you and the Cameroons, and now apparently this fresh verbiage seems to be yours and their latest marketing scam.

    Question: Did you kids think anybody was buying the cure-all “big speech” nonsense before, and do you think anybody is buying this “fresh start” nonsense now?

  • Abhay

    This guy is a desperate character – desperate to return to active power politics, desperate to hear his own voice in the media, desperate to preach his views (which nobody should care about).

    He runs some sort of an interfaith club while he as a person does not have one spiritual bone in his body!

    His govt transformed this country in ways that are radically left and hard to reverse.

  • chan chan

    The Eurozone, and then the EU proper, are going to collapse. This will trigger a massive flight of capital into the US$, gold, and US stock markets. Watch.

    • HookesLaw

      The EuroZone collapsing has been predicted for years and it still has not happened
      A fiscally and politically closer Eurozone will be the reason why we will have to renegotiate our relationship
      Heaven forbid Labour are in charge of that

      • Normandee

        not happened ? pop down to Southern Europe anywhere and ask them what “not happened” feels like.

      • chan chan

        And what do you call what has happened the last few years? A temporary blip? People committing suicide because life is good? Unemployment at record highs? It’s going. By the end of this decade, it will be over.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Are Blair and Chris Bryant MP related? There are many points of similarity between them, in visage, expression and way of speaking. One is an ex-vicar and one a wannabe priest. I hope they are not the result of some secret eugenics cloning by the Fabian Society.

    • Fergus Pickering

      I don’t think Blair has appeared in public wearing only his underpants.

      • Colonel Mustard

        True, but during his ‘Oasis/Cool Britannia period’ he did once slither into No.10 from Chequers wearing blue jeans and carrying a guitar in an obviously staged photo op!

  • Steven Efstathiou

    ‘I am not going to start weeing on [David Cameron’s] parade… ‘

    You gotta love Tone Bloke.

  • Norbert

    But what does Cherie have to say about this?

  • Iain Hill

    Les Revenants?

  • Adrian Drummond

    “I can tell you, people around the world now ask about this constantly, with an air of incredulity that Britain should even think of such a thing.”

    Hey, Tony…. try talking to people around the UK. They talk with an air of incredulity that someone like you …………. [fill in the gap].

  • Normandee

    Only a madman like Blair could look at this European Union and essentially say it won’t run properly unless Britain is in. Europe has done nothing for Britain, why do we need to stay?, to supply money and be a whipping boy for all the European politicians who hate us, that’s why, especially Hollande whose influence far outweighs his country’s contribution to Europe and I don’t just mean money.
    No, staying in just so it’s nicer for the rest is not a good enough reason.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Much as I share your loathing of this ghastly man whose ‘reign’ did incalculable damage to Britain, I agree with his hypothesis that a referendum will probably assert our collective desire to leave rather than create a basis for effective renegotiation. Indeed, it is impossible to construct a plausible basis for a renegotiation. From a British standpoint this would require complete reform of the CAP, control of our own borders, huge reductions in our net contribution and an end to all trade tariffs with non-EU trading partners etc etc. Our only effective negotiating tool is the ‘threat’ of departure and i cannot see the EU bureaucracy accepting such a position. Personally, I am happy for us to leave and believe that, as we did successfully for a thousand years before the EU, we can trade with the World as long as our goods and services are of acceptable quality and competitively priced. Also, BMW, Bosch etc will want to carry on selling us cars and washing machines so we can trade with Europe as well. Blair is, in my view, correct in his analysis but wrong in his conclusions.

      • Normandee

        I agree Nicholas,

        • Andy

          We should just get on and leave. The EU will never negotiate in good faith, so why bother.

    • dalai guevara

      ‘Europe has done nothing for Britain’

      Another comment from what appears to be a self-centred London bubblist.
      Care to remind me and your readership what ‘managed decline’ stood for, and who it was that actually injected huge funds into Liverpool, and the North, North West and North East as a whole?

      • Fergus Pickering

        Well, it was us. Via the EU and losing a hefty slice on the way.

        • dalai guevara

          No, managed decline was the slogan of the decade then. The truth is that Londinium had let go by then, large parts of England were actually saved by the vision of the then EEC.

          • ScaryBiscuits

            And what have those ‘huge funds’ done for Liverpool and the rest of the north? It is still in decline not just relative to London but in absolute terms. If the north of England was a country it would be poorer than Hungary (which is why it receives similar levels of largess). Despite massive spending, the EU has done nothing to change this and has sucked wealth to the centre whilst impoverishing the periphery (cf. Portugal, Greece, Ireland etc). The public works buildings with the EU flag stuck on them have been a very poor consolation indeed.
            Incidentally, ‘managed decline’ was the mantra of Tory wets (and much of Labour) before Mrs Thatcher. The decline of the EU is not managed at all, just accelerating.

            • dalai guevara

              Your response confirms exactly what I was after. To demonstrate that the horizon of the bubble denizens ends at Watford. You know what? You deserve every bit that’s coming in September 2014.

              • Nicholas K

                So presumably what you were after is confirmation that spraying money around the North through remotely determined “development aid” achieves little? As to the North being “saved by the vision of the then EEC” you obviously know nothing of how EEC/EU structural funds operate, which is through programmes proposed and administered by Member States.

                • dalai guevara

                  The funding game is not rocket science, everyone understands how that works – just like Heritage Lottery funding, in essence no difference.

                  What you are asking me to do is pay £4.30 for a single bus journey here whilst taxpayers nationally subsidise your TfL £1.40 extravaganza.
                  What has you exploiting low-skilled wage slaves who cannot afford to live anywhere near their workplace got to do with dismal Northern transport infrastructure? You guessed it: nothing. So why am I paying for your buses?

                • ScaryBiscuits

                  Dalai, I think you’ll find that London is a net contributor to the UK exchequer. The north of England is not. Despite the fact that your buses are £4.30 and London’s are £1.40, Londoners are subsidising your buses, not the other way around.

                • dalai guevara


                  TFL receives over £3bn of *central government* subsidies each year, GMPTE does not.

                • ScaryBiscuits

                  Give than man a prize for selective facts! GMPTE is subsidised by local government which in turn is subsidised by central government. Overall, the North receives about 2 times the subsidy the South does per head despite already having better infrastructure.
                  Rather than arguing about how it’s so unfair your neighbour gets more than you, perhaps it would be better thinking about how we could restore the North’s financial independence and entrepreneurial spirit. A subsidy junky is no good for those who pay it and even worse for those that receive. Manchester’s grandparents would be ashamed of how the current generation would, rather than trade with the world as they did, rattle a begging bowl.

                • dalai guevara

                  Public transport subsidies are not twice as high per head in Manchester compared to London. That is utter nonsense! There is no tube to fund in Manchester, do you think that pays for itself? The prize for making up selective facts remains firmly in your cabinet.

                  On the issue of independence, entrepreneurial spirit – or competitiveness even, the strategy is quite clear. If ‘natural’ pressures in a centralised state such as Britain lead to all powers concentrating in one place, then the obvious answer to the North/South divide, house price disparity, discrepancies in salaries, pressures on local infrastructure and so on will always be one thing: decentralisation.
                  Why are courts, media, government, industry all in one place? In Germany they aren’t, in Japan their are not, nor are they in the United States of America. Whenever a conurbation hits 10m inhabitants, it’s crunch time.

                  Cities as diverse as Jakarta, Beijing, Lagos, New York and Mexico City all had to make huge adjustments when they hit their ceiling.

                  Now London will.

                • nonsequiturcouk

                  Very good point Dalai, why are any of us, paying for anything we don’t use and others do? Maybe we should cut all subsidies, cut employment regulations and allow people to spend their own money.

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