A no-deal Brexit would lead to “potentially devastating” consequences for the peace process in Northern Ireland, according to former prime minister Tony Blair.
In a wide-ranging interview with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge, the once Labour Party leader warned of a hard border if the UK leaves the EU without agreements in place for what the future relationship will look like.
He dismissed Brexiteer claims that leaving with no deal would not be detrimental to Britain’s economy.
Mr Blair told Sky News: “No one could responsibly propose this [a no-deal Brexit]. It would be economically very, very dangerous for Britain and for the peace process in Northern Ireland, it would potentially be devastating.
“We would have a hard border, a very hard border, no-deal Brexit means a really hard border between the north and south of Ireland, contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and it would cause an enormous fissure within the United Kingdom.”
He added: “Those people who cheerfully say you can put the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland in a completely different relationship with Europe, in trading terms, and it makes no difference to the economy of Northern Ireland – I don’t know on what basis they would possibly say that.”
The former politician, who has called for a second referendum on Brexit, said the country needed to decide whether it wanted a soft or hard departure from the bloc.
“I’ve never thought you could get to another referendum going directly to it – you’ll get to it when the people see what the true Brexit alternatives are and the truth is there are two,” he said.
“You can have the soft Brexit, which is really what Jeremy Corbyn is suggesting, or you could have the hard Brexit that Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and other people want.
“And what I’ve really been saying all the way through this process is you’ve got to decide which of those Brexits you want before we leave – otherwise, we’re going to leave without clarity.”
He said leaving without clarity meant “no closure” for the country, leaving the argument to rage on long after the UK leaves the EU.
“By then you’ll have left paid your money up front and you’ll have given up your negotiating leverage,” he said. “For the country to do that, as Theresa May wants to do – to leave without knowing what Brexit you get – this would be, in my view, an incredibly foolish thing for the country to do.
“It’s got to know where we’re heading before we leave.”
He later turned to the issue of antisemitism in the Labour Party and admitted there were “parts of the left that do have a problem with antisemitism”.
“You see this in their attitudes to the state of Israel,” said Mr Blair. “You can make all sorts of criticisms about the state of Israel but with their continual focusing on Israel, all the time over a long period, you’re left with the feeling that they’re in a sense targeting it because it is a Jewish state.”
He said Labour leadership had “not been robust enough on this”.
“Can you imagine when I was leader of the Labour Party having a conversation with me about whether antisemitism was in the Labour Party or not?” he asked. “We wouldn’t even have that conversation and there is, I’m afraid, a nascent alliance between what I would call bits of the sort of Islamist type of politics and the left.
“And you can see this not just here in the UK, you can see it across Europe and yes, it gives rise to antisemitism… it’s not your traditional antisemitism of the right-wing nature but it’s every bit as pernicious.”