Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has castigated Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, claiming that a no-deal Brexit would be impossible if there was a “strong opposition” in the country, writes the Evening Standard.
The former Labour leader and head of the opposition from 1994 to 1997 hit out at his successor for what he said was "essentially a protest leadership" as he addressed an event in Edinburgh on 8 October, organised by the think tank Reform Scotland.
Blair, who was prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007, said:
"To be very frank, if you had a really strong opposition, I don't think the Government would for a single moment contemplate a no-deal Brexit."
Tony Blair described a no-deal Brexit as being an "an incredible thing to contemplate,” as he likened it to jumping out of an aircraft without a parachute and instead being given "this new thing" and being told "but we've got a lot of faith in it".
While not mentioning Corbyn by name, Tony Blair underscored the profound divisions within the Labour party over Brexit, saying:
"It's certainly hostile territory for centrists at the moment."
“At the moment, if it stays as it is it is a tragedy; because of its politics at the moment, it is not capable of unifying the country. And my worry, quite apart from all the other things, is at the moment, the leadership of the Labour Party is essentially a protest leadership and it is not a governing leadership.”
Future of Brexit in the balance
Tony Blair’s remarks came after Brexit woes hit a new low amidst ongoing talks between the UK and EU's negotiating teams ahead of the crunch summit, slated for 17 and 18 October.
On 8 October, Number 10 sources claimed German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made clear a deal was now "overwhelmingly unlikely".
According to the sources cited by the BBC, Merkel told Boris Johnson that Britain could not leave the EU unless it was prepared to leave Northern Ireland behind in a permanent customs union.
The German Chancellor’s office said it would not comment on "private" conversations.
However, European Council President Donald Tusk made a public tweet, accusing Prime Minister Boris Johnson of engaging in a "stupid blame game":
.@BorisJohnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 8, 2019
Last week, UK Prime Minister Johnson, who has vowed to take the UK out of the bloc on the 31 October deadline, with or without a deal, revealed his draft plan for EU withdrawal.
The blueprint stipulated abandoning the so-called Irish backstop and offering the creation of a regulatory zone in Ireland with minimum border checks as an alternative.
However, Brussels swiftly discarded the new plan.
Legislation passed by MPs last month, known as the Benn Act, requires Johnson to write to the EU requesting a further delay if a deal is not signed off by Parliament by 19 October, with the UK PM previously insisting he will comply with the law.