Tony Blair has said Brexit is a “Tory psychodrama” that leaves the country with “no time to deal with the problems of inequality”.
In an interview with The Guardian, the former prime minister, who has previously urged Britons to “rise up” against Brexit, said it was “not the answer” to the country’s problems and said it had a “distractive impact” that prevented politicians focussing on burning issues.
He said: “That distraction means that this government has no time to deal with the health service. It’s got no time to deal with the problems of poverty. It’s got no time to deal with the problems of inequality.
“It’s got time to deal with one thing only. The whole country has been pulled into this Tory psychodrama over Europe”.
He also said Jeremy Corbyn should oppose Brexit, saying it would be a “good idea” for the Labour leader, who expressed eurosceptic sentiments before backing Remain in the referendum, to come out and say it is unworkable.
The parliamentary battle over the EU Withdrawal Bill and the progress of talks with European leaders have intensified the debate around the form of Brexit the UK should pursue.
This week, Theresa May suffered her first parliamentary defeat when Labour and Tory rebels narrowly won a vote in favour of an amendment giving MPs a meaningful vote on the final deal.
On Friday, EU Commission president Donald Tusk said the 27 EU member states agreed “sufficient progress” had been made for the talks to progress to trade and security.
Blair’s words come as prominent Tory backbenchers Ken Clarke and Jacob Rees Mogg argued over the transitional period that the EU is offering, in which Britain would remain in the Single Market and Customs Union for at least another two years after quitting the bloc in March 2019.
Clarke, the former chancellor, told BBC’s Newsnight Britain would go “off a cliff edge”, without such a deal, saying there was not enough time to finish negotiations.
“I doubt we’d get the planning permission for the lorry parks in time,” he said.
Rees Mogg, a Brexiteer, hit back, saying a transitional deal would make Britain an EU “colony”.
“The transition which the EU is offering means that we’re still effectively in the European Union for the following two years,” he said.