A Brexiteer Cabinet minister has invited Tony Blair to make a speech on Brexit “every day of the week”, claiming the former prime minister’s support for remaining in the EU is damaging its prospects.
The minister told The Independent the ex-Labour PM is “toxic”, just hours after Mr Blair stood in Brussels to urge European politicians to find a way of allowing the UK to rejoin the bloc.
The senior Conservative frontbencher also lamented a speech by former Tory PM John Major, apparently coordinated with Mr Blair’s, which attacked Brexit and the Government’s handling of negotiations.
Moments after Mr Blair sat down, the anonymous Cabinet member said: “I’m happy for Tony Blair to make a speech on Brexit every day of the week.
“Every time he reminds people which side of the argument he is on it helps us. He is toxic.”
The senior frontbencher said he was “sorry” that Mr Major had made the speech he had made, in which he branded Ms May’s Brexit red lines as “grand folly”, but said it was inevitable given Mr Major’s past views and policies.
Mr Blair spoke in Brussels on Thursday afternoon, when he urged EU leaders to recognise the Leave vote as a “wake-up call” – arguing reform would help persuade the British public to change its mind.
The ex-PM also said Britain’s departure will weaken “Europe’s standing and power”, undermining the single market and creating “a competitive pole” across the English Channel.
In particular he pointed to immigration policy as the key reform needed, while also warning that time is running out.
He said: “We have months, perhaps weeks, to think, plan and act.
“Europe knows it needs reform. Reform in Europe is key to getting Britain to change its mind.”
Mr Blair called for “a comprehensive plan on immigration control, which preserves Europe’s values but is consistent with the concerns of its people and includes sensitivity to the challenges of the freedom of movement principle”.
And, in a plea to EU leaders, he said: “If, at this moment, Europe was to offer a parallel path to Brexit of Britain staying in a reforming Europe, that would throw open the debate to transformation.
“People will say it can’t happen. To which I say in these times in politics anything can happen.”