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Dhaka Tribune

Tony Blair: Brexit could be reversed if EU agrees to immigration deal

Update : 10 Sep 2017, 09:12 PM

Former British PM Tony Blair has called for tough new immigration rules which would allow Britain to exercise more control over who comes into the country without leaving the European Union, the Independent reports.

He admitted the open borders he presided over are no longer appropriate and put his name to a report calling for tighter domestic controls and the negotiation of modified free movement rules with the EU.

This would fulfill the will of the people expressed in last year's Brexit vote while allowing Britain to stay in the EU, and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour should back the approach, he said.

Blair's intervention appears designed to provoke a fundamental shift in the Brexit debate and solve the seemingly intractable trade-off between the economy and immigration.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has made controlling immigration her absolute Brexit priority but Brussels has stressed the UK will have to leave the single market if it wants to end the free movement of EU nationals.

But in an article for The Sunday Times Blair said: “There is no diversion possible from Brexit without addressing the grievances which gave rise to it.

“Paradoxically, we have to respect the referendum vote to change it.”

He went on: “We can curtail the things that people feel are damaging about European immigration, both by domestic policy change and by agreeing change within Europe.

“This is precisely the territory the Labour Party should camp upon.”

Blair has been blamed in many quarters for the rise in public concern about immigration which culminated in the Brexit vote, after failing to impose transitional controls on migrants from new EU member states in 2004.

According to the newspaper, a report from the Tony Blair Institute, authored by former Downing Street policy expert Harvey Redgrave, urged the Government to force EU immigrants to register on arriving in the UK so authorities can check whether they go on to work or study, a measure already in place in Belgium and also make EU nationals show evidence of a job offer that is confirmed by their employer before they enter Britain.

It also called for the Government to ban those without permission from renting a home, opening a bank account, or accessing benefits and introduce “discriminatory” controls restricting EU immigrants' access to free National Health Service (NHS) care if they are “economically inactive”.

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