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Blair: Moderate Tories risk Corbyn as PM if they vote for damaging Brexit deal

The ex-prime minister was speaking to a pro-EU think tank.

Tony Blair has warned moderate Tories that they risk handing the keys of Downing Street to Jeremy Corbyn if they vote to push through an economically damaging Brexit deal.

The former prime minister said that by the time of the next general election in 2022, voters who backed Brexit in the referendum would be “short on gratitude” while those who voted to remain would be “long on memory”.

Speaking to the pro-EU The UK In A Changing Europe think tank in London, he argued that defeat in the Commons for the Government on the terms of the final Brexit deal would not necessarily lead to a general election.

Instead, he said that Theresa May could still put the deal she had negotiated to the country in a second referendum, allowing the people to make the final decision.

“If you are a Tory MP you can say ‘I don’t think this is a good deal, I’m not going to vote for this deal,’” he said.

“If it is then defeated in the House of Commons, she (Mrs May) doesn’t need to resign and there doesn’t need to be an election.

“She can than simply say ‘I put the deal before Parliament. They rejected it, now it’s right that people should have a vote. They should have the final say.’

“That is perfectly rational. It is saying ‘The country took a decision to leave the European Union, the Government was mandated to negotiate a deal. It’s now negotiated a deal. Now let’s decide whether we like the deal or not.’”

Mr Blair said claims that defeat for the Government on the final deal would pave the way for a Labour government were misplaced and that the real danger for the Conservatives was if they forced through a deal.

I've got a feeling the 17 million who voted to leave are going to be short on gratitude and the 16 million who voted for remain are going to be long on memory Tony Blair

“The Conservatives have got to understand that if they drive through this Brexit deal that is going to be the gateway to a Corbyn government,” he said.

“Brexit will then be 100% owned by the Tories. I don’t believe Labour will vote for a Tory deal on Brexit. It will allow Labour to say ‘You are entitled to a better deal. They didn’t get the right deal.’

“By the time you get to 2022, you’ll be out of the European Union. I’ve got a feeling the 17 million who voted to leave are going to be short on gratitude and the 16 million who voted for remain are going to be long on memory.”

He added: “It would be common sense to say ‘Let’s wait and see the terms of the new relationship before irrevocably we get out of the old one.’”

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