World

EU leaders willing to compromise on freedom of movement: Blair


LONDON: European Union leaders are willing to change the bloc’s rules for the freedom of movement of workers, opening an opportunity for Britain to avoid a damaging “hard Brexit”, former prime minister Tony Blair said on Saturday.

The election of French President Emmanuel Macron had put reform of the EU on the table, meaning Britain and the EU could meet “halfway” to strike a deal that would keep Britain inside the world’s largest trading area, Blair said.

“The European leaders, certainly from my discussions, are willing to consider changes to accommodate Britain, including around freedom of movement,” the former Labour prime minister said in an article published by his Institute for Global Change.

“The opposition to free movement of people, once you break it down, is much more nuanced. The French and Germans share some of the British worries, notably around immigration, and would compromise on freedom of movement.” Blair’s comments are at odds with the EU’s negotiating stance, which stresses there can be no “cherry picking” from the benefits of membership of the EU’s single market without accepting freedom of movement for EU workers.

In a separate interview, Blair said he thought it was possible that Britain could stay in the EU because public opinion was moving against Brexit.

“I think it’s absolutely necessary that it doesn’t happen because I think every day is bringing us fresh evidence that it’s doing us damage economically,” Blair said, in a preview of Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

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