Theresa May has launched a stinging attack on former Prime Minister Tony Blair, branding his efforts to bring about a second referendum an “insult to the office he once held”.
The Prime Minister, who has endured a string of recent setbacks including defeats in parliament, a leadership challenge and a difficult trip to Brussels, accused her predecessor of “undermining” the UK's negotiations with the EU.
May said Blair wished to subvert the Brexit process to pursue his own "political interests".
Referring to Blair’s comments that the EU should prepare for the “near probability” of the UK extending Article 50, the mechanism by which it leaves the bloc, May said: “For Tony Blair to go to Brussels and seek to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum is an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served.
“We cannot, as he would, abdicate responsibility for this decision." In response to the PM's attack, Blair insisted it was neither "irresponsible or insulting to put forward an alternative way to achieve resolution" and accused May of attempting to "steamroller MPs into accepting a deal they genuinely think is a bad one."
May’s decision to delay last week’s crucial vote on her Brexit deal was met with widespread derision in the House of Commons, and prompted another trip to the continent to extract more concessions over the Irish backstop.
She is preparing to update MPs tomorrow on the EU summit, following the emergence of footage appearing to show her in a tense argument with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who had described her demands as “nebulous and imprecise”.
Downing Street also confirmed it was preparing to summon ambassadors from the 27 EU states to No 10 this week in a bid to secure their support for clarifying the language around the backstop proposal.
Meanwhile, International trade secretary Liam Fox told the BBC earlier today that parliament may have to decide what to do in the event May's deal is not approved by MPs, through a free vote or indicative vote on the Brexit options – May’s deal, no deal, a Norway-style model or a second referendum.
Fox was echoed by education secretary Damian Hinds, who also refused to rule out indicative votes on the Brexit options to break the current deadlock. However, he insisted the government was not planning a second referendum, saying such a move would be “divisive”.