Tony Blair says Labour is "effectively disabled" while warning against a Brexiteer leading EU negotiations

James Nickerson
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Blair said the UK must intensely engage with Europe (Source: Getty)

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the Labour party is "effectively disabled", stressing the neeed for statesmanship in crafting the negotiations with the EU.

Blair, who was Prime Minister between 1997 and 2007, cautioned against a Brexiteer leading the negotiations with the EU.

Writing in the Telegraph, Blair said: "With the Labour Party effectively disabled we need the Conservative Party to conduct its leadership battle with genuine patriotic regard for our nation’s interest.

"The next weeks are vital in the signals we send to Europe and the way Britain is perceived. For example, Theresa May says she will have a Brexit Minister conduct the negotiation for Britain. OK, I understand the Tory politics of that; but is it really sensible for the country?

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"Don’t underestimate the damage having Nigel Farage address the European Parliament in that way does to our interests. Remember who has to agree any new deal for Britain: the European Parliament."

There are now five Tories hoping to replace David Cameron, with Theresa May and Michael Gove the frontrunners, Stephen Crabb behind and Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom trailing.

Cameron will not trigger Article 50, which will effectively put the wheels in motion to the UK's exit, leaving it to the next Prime Minister.

That suits some EU members, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel thought to be urging her peers not to rush things. However, some - including EU Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker - wanting a quick seperation.

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"There is going to be a negotiation of extraordinary complexity where there are a thousand devils in every detail. Those we used to call “our European partners” are, unsurprisingly, divided and uncertain themselves. Some want us out fast. Some agree to delay the Article 50 process. This needs serious statesmanship," Blair continued.

The former Labour leader went on to say negotiations should not be rushed. Instead, the UK needs to digest the facts, arguments nad information and process them in a rational way to decide what future relationship it wants before hastily concluding negotiations.

"Our nation is in peril. To allow us to come safely through this we need to be adult in our politics, to proceed with calm, maturity and without bitterness; because our future as a nation in the world and as the UK itself is at stake," he said.

Blair also said that people should have the opportunity to reverse the decision, though added that now is not the time.

"The British people have a right to carry on being part of the debate, to consider the facts which will now take the place of the claims and counterclaims, and to discuss the options which will be put before us. Actually the people do have a right to change their mind, but that is not for now."

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