Ex-Premier Blair 'British Understand the Folly of Leaving the EU'

Not much has been heard from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair lately. But in recent days, he has waded into the debate surrounding the next EU Commission president. In an interview, he also predicts that the British will vote to stay in the European Union.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "This is a really important moment for the future of Europe."
REUTERS

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "This is a really important moment for the future of Europe."

By in London


After years of laying low, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made his way back onto the European stage. Inthe wake of European Parliament elections in late May, he has launched a media offensive, warning repeatedly against the allures of the right-wing populists -- who made significant gains in the vote -- and demanding that reforms be made to the EU. SPIEGEL ONLINE met with Blair on Monday together with several other media outlets.


Question: European Parliament wants to make Jean-Claude Juncker, whose conservatives came out on top in the elections, the new president of the European Commission. Prime Minister David Cameron and a handful of other EU leaders are seeking to prevent that. Is Juncker the best man?

Blair: I don't want to comment on individual people. We should choose the person who is best capable of driving through the reform agenda in Europe. This is a really important moment for the future of Europe. There is a common view that Europe has got to reassert its essential purpose and make changes to the way it works.

Question: Is there anybody who fits that bill?

Blair: There are lots of people who would be prepared to act as a strong CEO of the Commission and adopt a reform agenda from the Council. There should be a special Council meeting where such an agenda is drawn up. The new Parliament is going to be difficult. The Council is going to need to assert itself very strongly, and the Commission needs to be unified under strong, clear executive leadership.

Question: That sounds like a recipe for war with Parliament.

Blair: The EU elections do represent a desire for change. EU leaders can't just dismiss them.

Question: What do you make of the argument that the voters have chosen one of the lead candidates to be president of the Commission?

Blair: I don't think people in Europe really had in mind they were electing the Commission president. You have got to be realistic about this. People do not feel connected to the European Parliament in the way we would like them to. You've got to be careful of the concept that this European vote was a vote for specific people to become president. Of course, we have to take account of who won the election. That's in the treaties now. But in the end, it should be the best person for the job.

Question: Why have you joined the EU debate now? Some might say you are looking for an EU post.

Blair: I am not seeking a role in Europe, formal or informal. It's literally what I believe. It is important that pro-Europeans speak out in Britain.

Question: In Germany, David Cameron is being seen as blackmailing his EU counterparts over Juncker's candidacy. Has he led Britain into a dead end?

Blair: David Cameron has a difficult task on his hands. He can't ignore the UKIP result and he's got issues in his own party. I think you are better able to make this case as to what Britain wants if it's a case made on the basis of what's good for Europe, and not just what's good for Britain. Then you are more likely to build alliances.

Question: Cameron has got his tactics wrong?

Blair: No, I am not criticizing him at all. He's got a chance to build a reform alliance. He's not the only one turning up in the European Council with a difficult domestic background. Whatever negative feelings there are towards the British on this, it is a curable negativity.

Question: Can you imagine a situation in which Britain might find itself outside the EU in five years' time?

Blair: I believe that Britain ultimately will vote to stay in Europe. In the end, the British understand the folly of leaving Europe. I don't accept that the British are as anti-European as everyone says. It is a matter of fact that no-one has ever won an election on a platform of hostility to the EU. I won three elections as a pro-European. Margaret Thatcher won her first two elections as a pro-European.

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donald4194 06/03/2014
1. optional
Blair has blood on his hands with his share in the illegal and unfounded war on Iraq. He is probably the most hated politician around and should keep a low profile. He is certainly in no position to talk for the British people who mostly have nothing but contempt for him.
steliasrange 06/03/2014
2.
Tony Blair go away!
EEC not EU 06/03/2014
3. Embarrassing Fraud
This man has no credibility in the UK. He reduced politics to a branch of show business, he has no grasp of Economics and used the position of UK PM as a stepping stone to the Presidency of Euroland. He has no principles and hoped for a quick victory in Iraq on the coattails of the US - he might yet get his day in The Hague.
Inglenda2 06/03/2014
4. Why is space given to this man?
Quite rightly not much has been heard from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair lately. This warmonger should have been put in Jail years ago. He belongs to a group of state leaders who led their people into war on the basis of lies. I am surprised that Spiegel online stoops so low as to spread his opinion.
pfgpowell 06/03/2014
5. Blair the busted flush
Whether he likes it or not, whether fairly or not, Tony Blair is a busted flush in Britain, whether you are left-wing, right-wing, barely left-of-centre or barely right-of-centre. Quite possibly he and his views are still taken seriously abroad – and Der Speigel and 'other media outlets (Trout and Salmon? What Car?) might still think he is worth listening to – but the consensus is that he is poison and best avoided. All for any number if reasons. The question was put to Blair as to whether he is angling for a top EU job – well, possibly the top job, because anything else would be infra-dig after he was dropped the last time – and he claims he isn't. Well, up to a point Lord Copper. The obvious question is: why, Mr Blair, are you bothering even to comment then? Were the interview to do with Israel and Palestine and its 'peace process' there might well be a reason why he should pop up and add his two ha'porth worth. But as it is, there can really be no reason except to try to gain some kind of traction as 'the man who might be more acceptable to some than Juncker'. Some hope, Tony.
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