Boris Johnson attacks Tony Blair's 'bare-faced effrontery' after former PM urges Remainers to 'rise up' against Brexit

Johnson blasts Blair's anti-Brexit speech Johnson blasts Blair's anti-Brexit speech
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Boris Johnson has attacked Tony Blair for showing "contempt" to British voters after the former Prime Minister warned the UK is heading for "Brexit at any cost".

In a keynote speech, Mr Blair urged Remain voters to "rise up" against the Government's drive for Brexit, which will cause "real damage" to Britain and the embitterment of future generations.

Speaking at the headquarters of the Bloomberg financial news agency in London where David Cameron first set out his plan for an in/out vote on Britain's EU membership, he issued a rallying cry against the referendum vote which was "based on imperfect knowledge".

Tony Blair's call to 'rise up' against Brexit - five key points Tony Blair's call to 'rise up' against Brexit - five key points
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Mr Blair also launched a direct attack on Theresa May and senior Cabinet ministers, highlighting the fact that six months ago they were declaring that Brexit would be a catastrophe but now it is seen as an "opportunity".

He said: "The Prime Minister and his Government are not masters of this situation, they are not driving the bus. They are being driven."

He also launched an attack on Jeremy Corbyn, saying that the "destabilisation" of Labour had "facilitated" Brexit. 

He admitted that he would face a "volley of abuse" for his comments, but said: "This is a free country, I've got a right to speak and you've got a right to listen or not."

Mr Johnson accused Mr Blair of "insulting the intelligence" of the British people. He said: "I respectfully say to Tony Blair, those who call on the British people to rise up against Brexit, I urge the British people to rise up and turn off the TV next time Tony Blair comes on with his condescending campaign."

Blair: the government are not masters of the situation Blair: the government are not masters of the situation
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Boris: I urge the British people to rise up and turn off the TV next time Tony Blair's on

More from Boris Johnson, this time being interviewed on Sky News:

"This is a discussion we had most of last year, it came out very firmly in favour of leaving the EU. Everywhere I go I find people who admire UK democracy and very much admire the British people for sticking up for their democracy. 

"Everywhere I go I meet people who think Brexit will be a spectacular success, exactly as the Prime Minister has said, and who are queuing up to help us. We heard all these arguments last year. Not a thing has changed. I think it is insulting the intelligence of the British people to say they got it wrong.

"Of course there will be elections down the line. Be in no doubt that the people of this country were told all sorts of claptrap about the economic consequences of leaving the EU. They were told there would be a punishment Budget, they were told the economy would go off a cliff.

"The very opposite has happened. What I'm struck by is the incredible confidence international investors, international leaders have in our country and in the future of our country. This country has a phenomenal future and people are waking up to that. 

"As for Tony Blair whatever his merits as a former Prime Minister this is the guy who would have taken our country into the Euro with what would have been catastrophic consequences, this is the guy who dragooned the United KIngdom into the Iraq War on a completely false prospectus with consequences which foreign ministers here are still trying to deal with.

I respectfully say to Tony Blair, those who call on the British people to rise up against Brexit, I urge the British people to rise up and turn off the TV next time Tony Blair comes on with his condescending campaign."

Boris piles in

Boris Johnson has attacked Tony Blair for showing "contempt" to British voters by calling for people to "rise up" and block Brexit.

The Foreign Secretary said:

"I call on the British people to rise up and turn off the TV when Tony Blair next appears with his condescending campaign.”

"Now he has the bare-faced effrontery to tell the British people that they were wrong last June. He is showing a contempt for the intelligence of the electorate."

Summary: Tony Blair urges pro-Europeans to rise up

In a keynote speech, Tony Blair has urged pro-Europeans to "rise up" and persuade the British people they were wrong about Brexit.

The former prime minister said voters had backed leaving the EU without knowing the true cost and should have the opportunity to change their minds.

Speaking at the headquarters of the Bloomberg financial news agency in London where David Cameron first set out his plan for an in/out vote on Britain's EU membership, he questioned whether the referendum had given a mandate for "Brexit at any cost".

Tony Blair during his speech on Brexit Credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

He warned that the path the Government was now pursuing meant the break-up of the UK was "back on the table", giving the SNP a much more credible case for Scottish independence.

"I accept right now there is no widespread appetite to re-think. But the people voted without knowledge of the true terms of Brexit.

"As these terms become clear, it is their right to change their mind. Our mission is to persuade them to do so," he said.

"What was unfortunately only dim in our sight before the referendum is now in plain sight. The road we're going down is not simply hard Brexit. It is Brexit at any cost.

"Our challenge is to expose relentlessly what this cost is, to show how the decision was based on imperfect knowledge which will now become informed knowledge, to calculate in 'easy to understand' ways how proceeding will cause real damage to our country; and to build support for finding a way out from the present rush over the cliff's edge.

"I don't know if we can succeed. But I do know we will suffer a rancorous verdict from future generations if we do not try."

Read the speech in full here.

Why Leavers will be praying Blair never stops moaning about Brexit

The Telegraph's Asa Bennett has been penning his thoughts on Mr Blair's big Brexit speech - and specifically on why he thinks Leavers will be hoping the former PM  just keeps banging on and on about it.

Here's an extract: 

Leavers will make a show of gnashing their teeth about Mr Blair's intervention.

In truth, they'll be delighted to have him at the head of the anti-Brexit movement, as he will remind voters of the pro-EU political elite they reject at the ballot box.

The reaction

We heard from Iain Duncan Smith before Mr Blair had even opened his mouth, but here's a flavour of the reaction from after Mr Blair's speech.

A rather predictable response from Nick Clegg:

The Telegraph's leader writer Tim Stanley

Ukip MP Douglas Carswell:

And a good point from BBC DJ Liz Kershaw:

Here, The Telegraph's Helena Horton examines the Twitter reaction in detail.

And, if you want your say you can vote in our poll here:

 

Blair starts Q&A

Blair finishes up the speech. He has attacked the Government and the Labour opposition, and called for a new movement to fight Brexit.

The former PM has now sat down to taking questions with Labour's Pat McFadden.

Tony Blair taking questions Credit: SKY NEWS

 

Blair makes dig at Corbyn's Labour

In a pointed criticism of Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Blair said:

"The debilitation of the Labour Party is the facilitator of Brexit. I hate to say that, but it is true."

He said that the institute which he was launching would play its part in developing the arguments to rethink the country's position.

"What this means is that we have to build a movement which stretches across party lines; and devise new ways of communication.

"These groups must find ways of concerting strategy and tactics effectively. We should begin to create informal links immediately and then build them into a movement with weight and reach.

"We need to strengthen the hand of the MPs who are with us and let those against know they have serious opposition to Brexit at any cost."

Blair attacks Labour: their debilitation is Brexit's facilitator Blair attacks Labour: their debilitation is Brexit's facilitator
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The Government is 'obsessed' with Brexit

Mr Blair's said that the Government is obsessed with Brexit at the cost of all other political issues, including the NHS.

He said:

"Our duty is to give answers, not ride anger. This Government is a mono-purpose political entity. Nothing matters apart from Brexit."

'We are going to be poorer'

Mr Blair said: "This is a decision which begets other decision. Every part of this negotiation is itself an immense decision with consequence."

Tony Blair attacking the Government's Brexit strategy Credit: SKY NEWS

He said that Brexit will cause significant "pain" for the UK and that negotiations with the EU are "without precedent". 

"We are going to be poorer. The price of imported goods in our supermarkets is up, and thus the cost of living," he said. "Making the best of a bad job doesn't alter the fact that it isn't smart to put yourself in that position."

Blair launches direct attack on Theresa May

Mr Blair launched a direct attack on Theresa May and senior Cabinet ministers, highlighting the fact that six months ago they were declaring that Brexit would be a catastrophe but now it is seen as an "opportunity" 

He said:

"The Prime Minister and her Government are not masters of this situation, they are not driving the bus. They are being driven."

Blair: We need a way out 'from the present rush over the cliff edge' Blair: We need a way out 'from the present rush over the cliff edge'
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Blair: Brexit at any cost

Mr Blair opened his speech by saying that people are entitled to change their minds:

"I want to be explicit. Yes the British people voted to leave Europe. Right now there is no widespread appetite to rethink. 

"But the people voted without knowledge of the terms of Brexit. As these terms become clear they have the right to change their minds.

"The road we are going down is not just hard Brexit, it is Brexit at any cost."

Blair's 'big moment'

Mr Blair has started.

Tony Blair's Open Britain speech Credit: SKY NEWS

The Telegraph's deputy political editor Steven Swinford is there:

The great and good from New Labour's past are gathered to hear Tony Blair speak, including a raft of current and former MPs. Seated on the front row is Cherie, his wife.

Clearly a big moment for the former PM.

Labour MP defends Blair's stance

Following Mr Duncan Smith's comments, Pat McFadden, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East, has appeared on Sky News to defend Mr Blair.

He said:

"I think he [Mr Blair] is aware there will be that reaction among some.

"Whenever Tony Blair makes a speech there is always a bit of shoot the messenger to get past as to whether he has the right to take part in these debates or not.

"The truth is he has not had very much to say about British politics in the ten years since he left office.

"I think he probably takes the view that the issue is frankly too important for him to completely sit it out."

Mr McFadden added that he believed all former prime ministers had a legitimate right to weigh in on Brexit.

Meanwhile, here are Mr Duncan's comments in full:

IDS: Blair 'late to the lunch' IDS: Blair 'late to the lunch'
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Blair on Scottish independence

Another issue Mr Blair will touch in is Scottish independence.

Mr Blair will warn that the break-up of the UK is now "back on the table" but with a "much more credible" case for Scottish independence.

Reflecting on his own legacy, he will also highlight the "destabilising impact" of concerns over border arrangements on the Northern Ireland peace process.

"None of this ignores the challenges the country faces in common with many other countries: those left behind by globalisation; the aftermath of the financial crisis; stagnant incomes amongst a section of the public; and for sure the pressures posed by big increases in migration which make perfectly reasonable people anxious and feeling unheard in their anxiety," he will say.

Blair to warn of 'making the best of a bad job'

The former PM will rail against the Prime Minister's characterisation of a pro-EU metropolitan elite who are "citizens of nowhere", insisting:

"This is not the time for retreat, indifference or despair; but the time to rise up in defence of what we believe.

"How hideously, in this debate, is the mantle of patriotism abused. We do not argue for Britain in Europe because we are citizens of nowhere. We argue for it precisely because we are proud citizens of our country who believe that in the 21st Century, we should maintain our partnership with the biggest political union and largest commercial market right on our doorstep; not in diminution of our national interest, but in satisfaction of it."

Mr Blair will acknowledge "genuine concerns" over immigration but claim that "for many people" the main worry is around entrants from countries outside the EU, "especially when from different cultures in which assimilation and potential security threats can be an issue".

He will say:

"Nonetheless, we have moved in a few months from a debate about what sort of Brexit involving a balanced consideration of all the different possibilities; to the primacy of one consideration - namely controlling immigration from the EU - without any real discussion as to why and when Brexit doesn't affect the immigration people most care about.

"Yet we're told we have to stop debating it and just do it.

"This is a great country, with resilient and creative people. And yes, no one is going to write us off. But making the best of a bad job doesn't alter the fact that it isn't wise to put yourself in that position unless you have to."

Backlash to Blair's Remain speech

Mr Blair's planned intervention has already sparked a fierce backlash from Brexiteers before it has been delivered.

Iain Duncan Smith, for example, has said his comments are "arrogant" and "undemocratic".

Iain Duncan Smith Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

Richard Tice, co-chair of Leave Means Leave and a close campaign ally of Nigel Farage, said:

"There is some irony that Tony Blair, a former prime minister who will forever be remembered for deceiving the British people, will try to resurrect his political corpse by trying to deceive the British people once again.

"The EU referendum was democratic, fair and free and the British people voted for Brexit.

"Tony Blair is now trying to do everything he can to halt Brexit."

The speech is for Open Britain, which is campaigning against a so-called "hard Brexit" outside the European single market, and is due to be delivered at 9.30am. 

Mr Blair is expected to say Theresa May is leading a "mono-purpose" Government "for Brexit, of Brexit and dominated by Brexit".

"Those driving this always wanted a hard Brexit. Indeed even the term hard Brexit requires amendment. The policy is now Brexit at any cost.

"Our challenge is to expose relentlessly the actual cost, to show how this decision was based on imperfect knowledge which will now become informed knowledge, to calculate in 'easy to understand' ways how proceeding will cause real damage to the country and its citizens and to build support for finding a way out from the present rush over the cliff's edge.

"I don't know if we can succeed. But I do know we will suffer a rancorous verdict from future generations if we do not try."