Tony Blair tackled claims his migration policies had led to Brexit
This morning, the former prime minister staged a major intervention to call for Remain supporters to “rise up” against Brexit and launch a bid to reverse the EU referendum result.
The ex-Labour premier used the opportunity to deny claims his decision to allow an immediate open-door to the UK for nationals from eight new EU member states – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – in 2004 had fuelled the Leave vote on June 23 last year.
Chancellor Philip Hammond recently insisted Mr Blair’s resolution not to introduce transitional migration controls on those former communist countries sparked the British public’s opposition to uncontrolled immigration.
The UK was one of only three EU countries not to opt for transitional controls in 2004, with a sharp increase in migration from those new member states following.
The last Labour government did then introduce seven-year transitional migrant labour controls when Bulgaria and Romania later joined the EU in 2007.
I love the fact they now say Brexit is really down to me.
Speaking to an audience at Bloomberg in central London, Mr Blair tackled claims his migration policies had led to UK voters’ dislike of EU freedom of movement rules.
He said: “I love the fact they now say Brexit is really down to me. The circumstances of course were completely different in 2004. We could have decided to put those transitional arrangements in.
“It would have meant for four years – people could still come to Britain by the way, freedom of movement came immediately – but it's true they wouldn't have been able to look for a job.
“Or at least not officially, which is one of our issues by the way, until 2008. But actually the majority of this migration from Europe has come in post-2008.”
In defiance of Mr Hammond’s claims, Mr Blair said it was “very convenient” for current ministers to blame him for immigration concerns.
He added: ”It's about time they took responsibility for being in Government.”
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Mon, February 6, 2017
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Last month, Mr Hammond attributed the Brexit vote to a “a strong strand of feeling against uncontrolled migration”.
He said: “I lay the responsibility for that squarely at the door of prime minister Blair who failed to impose transitional regime in the UK in 2004.”