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  1. ITV Report

Tony Blair: EU reforms could persuade UK against Brexit

European Union leaders may be willing to commit to wide-ranging reforms including over freedom of movement in order to persuade the UK to turn back from Brexit, Tony Blair has said.

The former prime minister told ITV News he had informal discussions with many senior figures in Europe who indicated they are “open to discussions” on a compromise position.

Mr Blair also suggested that Theresa May had lost her mandate for a hard Brexit in the last election and many are having "second thoughts" about leaving the bloc as the complexity of negotiations become apparent.

He has called for called for a proper debate on the options - including alternatives to Brexit.

"I think both sides can see this Brexit juggernaut may be rolling along but it’s not in either of our interests that it crashes through the future of our economy," he said.

'We are all learning, as we proceed, the damage Brexit will do,' Mr Blair said. Credit: PA

Mr Blair said that he believes reform is now on Europe's agenda, with the new French leader committed to changes and the perils of high-profile Brexit looming over the entire bloc.

I think Europeans themselves know the damage that Brexit is going to do to Europe and not just to Britain.

And I also think we here on Britain virtually all the time and every day are seeing the consequences – jobs are leaving already, we are now the slowest growing economy in the G7, not the fastest, living standards are stagnating.

– Tony Blair

He urged Theresa May to turn back from her committal hard Brexit which he suggested was largely motivated by politics and instead attempt to hold parallel talks on an alternative option of remaining within a reformed bloc.

"A sensible negotiation...would at least include the option of staying in a Europe that itself was prepared to reform and in particular take seriously the issues of immigration that worry people," he said.

However, Jeremy Corbyn has rebuked Mr Blair's claims.

The current Labour leader said his party respected the outcome of the referendum, while shadow chancellor John McDonnell said there was no desire to reopen the divisions over Brexit.

Theresa May has said she favours a hard Brexit. Credit: PA

Mr McDonnell branded the former Labour leader's comments as being out of touch with the "nature of the debate" on Brexit.

"If you listen to ordinary people in this country now, what they want is basically a Brexit that will protect their jobs and protect the economy," he said.

"We believe we can achieve that traditional British compromise of bringing people back together again. That is what we need now.

"What we don't want is to have divisions in the country again."

John McDonnell said Mr Blair was out of touch with public opinion. Credit: PA

In his interview today he also suggested that Jeremy Corbyn could win an election from hard left position but it "doesn't necessarily mean it is right".

Mr Blair's intervention was also dismissed by pro-Brexit Labour MP Frank Field.

"We are now set on the course of leaving," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"I wouldn't actually be believing those people who are set on destroying our attempts to leave who now appear as wolves in sheep's clothing."

Tory Brexit Minister Robin Walker echoed Labour's accusation that Mr Blair had lost touch with voters.

"The majority of British people voted to leave the EU. The majority of MPs, including Blair's own Labour Party, voted to trigger Article 50," he said.

"By calling for the will of the people and Parliament to be overturned, Tony Blair is demonstrating once again that he is out of touch."