Tony Blair Says EU Could Compromise on Freedom of Movement
Albanian Daily News
Published July 15, 2017
Some EU leaders may be prepared to compromise on the free movement of people to help Britain stay in the single market, Tony Blair has said.
He told the Today programme one option was for Britain "staying within a reformed EU".
The ex-PM said he would not disclose conversations he had had in Europe - but insisted he was not speaking "on a whim".
The government insists Brexit will give the UK greater control of its borders.
And Labour's shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said Mr Blair "hadn't really listened to the nature of the debate going on".
Mr Blair spoke to the BBC after he argued in an article for his own institute that there was room for compromise on free movement of people.
He told Today the situation in Europe was different to when Britain voted to leave the EU - a move Mr Blair described as "the most serious it's taken since the Second World War".
He said France's new president, Emmanuel Macron - whose political party was formed last year - was proposing "far-reaching reforms" for the EU.
"Europe itself is now looking at its own reform programme," Mr Blair said.
"They will have an inner circle in the EU that will be part of the eurozone and an outer circle."
When pressed by Today presenter Nick Robinson on what evidence there was to suggest European nations would compromise on such issues as freedom of movement, Mr Blair said: "I'm not going to disclose conversations I've had within Europe, but I'm not saying this literally on the basis of a whim.
"They will make reforms that I think will make it much more comfortable for Britain to fit itself in that outer circle."
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He said "majorities" of people in France, Germany and the UK supported changes around benefits and with regards to those who come to Europe without a job.
"I'm not saying these could be negotiated," Mr Blair said.
"I'm simply saying if we were looking at this from the point of view of the interests of the country, one option within this negotiation would be Britain staying within a reformed European Union."
He said the majority of EU migrants in the UK are "people we want in this country".
EU leaders have previously said the UK must accept free movement of people if it wants to stay inside the single market.
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But in his article for the Institute for Global Change, Mr Blair said senior figures had told him they were willing to consider changes to one of the key principles of membership of the single market.
"The French and Germans share some of the British worries, notably around immigration, and would compromise on freedom of movement," he wrote.
But last week the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital - the key principles of the single market - were "indivisible".
Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to control EU migration and has reiterated her commitment to reducing net migration to the tens of thousands.
She has said that outside the single market, and without rules on freedom of movement, the UK will be able to make its own decisions on immigration." he added.