48 questions from Tony Blair's speech that the Brextremists can't or won't answer

Brexiteers need to answer these 48 questions, one for each percentage point that voted Remain.

Tony Blair attempts to rally pro-EU campaigners in anti-Brexit speechITN

So Tony Blair speaks on Brexit and needless to say provokes the usual suspects to pipe up with the usual ranting and raving. Like, I mean, what does the future of Britain have to do with him? So what if he won three elections? What about I-R-A-Q, duh? (Welcome to 'political debate' in the Trump-Brexit era).

The Pavlov dog reaction in some parts neatly underlined the point Blair himself made about (my analysis not his) the dumbed-down, Dacre-ised, Murdoch-ised media landscape in which to say anything other than that Brexit means British Glory is an act of whinging amounting to treason.

It is to his credit that in the certain knowledge of the fresh hate that would come his way he stood up and said what he thinks. Also, say what you like about Tony Blair, but he knows how to make a speech and he knows how to fill it with substance.

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It is the substance that the Brextremists fear. That is why they play the man not the ball, shoot the messenger rather than engage with the message. And of course because so much of our media focuses on personality (even with a government so devoid of them) rather than policy, the kind of serious argument he was mounting can easily get lost amid the noise and the hate.

The shrillness of the Brextremists' response underlines another fear - that the arguments we proud and persistent Remainers put forward might just have more to them than the glib 'Brexit means Brexit' and 'the people have spoken' soundbites that were expanded into Theresa May's pitifully thin cut-and-paste White Paper about the biggest decisions of our lifetime.

Even in the La La Land of the Brexit Lie Machine, it is the substance that will eventually break through their shrillness. Blair's speech posed a lot of serious questions and all who refuse to be cowed by the Lie Machine have to keep putting those questions to those who claim to be carrying out the national will with the hard Brexit very few actually voted for.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair waits to deliver a keynote speech at a pro-EU event in LondonCarl Court/Getty Images
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair delivers a keynote speech at a pro-EU event in LondonCarl Court/Getty Images

From May down, the Brexiteers tend to shy away from difficult debates and difficult interviews but here, as a guide to the questions they need to face until they are answered, come 48 of them that all flow from Blairs's excellent speech, one for each percentage point that voted Remain.

  1. Do you accept that many people who voted Leave did so without knowing the full terms of Brexit?
  2. Do you accept that it is open to the people to change their minds if they decide Brexit will in fact harm their own and the country's interests?
  3. Do you accept that there is no monopoly on patriotism and that there might be a patriotic case for wishing to reverse the referendum decision, if enough people feel it will be damaging to the UK?
  4. Do you agree the government approach can now be defined as 'Brexit at any cost'?
  5. Do you accept that people are entitled to be concerned at the scale of that cost, economically and politically?
  6. Do you accept that the financial cost of withdrawal, the UK having to pay for previous EU obligations but not benefit from future opportunities, could be as high as £60bn?
  7. Do you agree with the Prime Minister's and the Chancellor's former views that maintaining our partnership with the biggest political union and largest commercial market on our doorstep fulfills rather than diminishes our national interest?
  8. Is there not something surreal about the Prime Minister and Chancellor now claiming hard Brexit is a huge boon for the country when during the campaign they said the opposite, in Chancellor Philip Hammond's case with real conviction?
  9. Do you accept that politics, not economics or the genuine national interest, is now driving the hard Brexit chosen by May?
  10. Are you seriously saying the PM's vision of Britain as a 'great open trading nation' is best served by leaving the largest free trading bloc in the world? Might her vision of Britain as a bridge between Europe and the US be more realistic if we remained part of the EU?
  11. In what way will her call for a fairer capitalism be met by moving to a low tax, light regulation economy?
  12. Do you accept that if the right-wing ideologues pushing a hard Brexit so Britain becomes a low tax, low regulation, offshore hub have their way, we will need huge tax and welfare changes? Were they voted for in the referendum?
  13. Will this approach in fact lead to less not more public money for the NHS? Less not more protection for workers?
  14. Is it not the case that the UK government could make these changes now, but wouldn't because they know they do not have public support for them?
  15. Is there any chance at all that Brexit will lead to £350m a week more for the NHS?
  16. Please define the 'big argument' that Tony Blair says is missing from this pursuit of hard Brexit, and how it will benefit Britain economically.
  17. Do you agree that of the many arguments put forward for Leave in the referendum, only immigration and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) are still really being pursued?
  18. Do you accept that the Leave campaign deliberately conflated the ECJ and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)?
  19. Can you confirm that that ECHR is not and never has been a EU body?
  20. Can you name any laws the UK government has not been able to pass because of the ECJ?
  21. Can you confirm that of net immigration into the UK in 2016, over half was from outside the EU?
  22. Do you accept that as May wants to keep those EU immigrants who come with a confirmed job offer, and students, this leaves around 80,000 who come looking for work without a job?
  23. Do you agree that of these 80,000, roughly a third come to London, mostly working in the food processing and hospitality sectors; and that the practical impact of Brexit on our 'control' of immigration is on analysis less than 12% of the immigration total?
  24. Do you agree that most of the immigrants we are talking about in this 12% work hard and pay their taxes?
  25. Do you think the biggest constitutional, political, economic and social change of our lifetime is merited by such numbers as set out in questions 23 to 26?
  26. Do you accept that the immigration most people worry about – that of people determined to challenge our security and way of life, in the name of a perverted view of Islam – is not affected by Brexit?
  27. Do you agree that the post Article 50 negotiations are going to be as complex as any we have experienced, covering a vast number of areas?
  28. Do you accept, as a matter of fact, that the Single Market covers around half of our trade in goods and services?
  29. Do you accept that leaving the Customs Union may adversely impact on trade with other countries like Turkey?
  30. Can you confirm that we will need to negotiate the replacement of over 50 Preferential Trade Agreements we have via our membership of the EU?
  31. Do you accept that EU-related trade is actually two thirds of the UK total?
  32. Do you accept scientific research and culture are both going to suffer as a result of Brexit, and indeed already are?
  33. Are you content to have the WTO as a fall back strategy should we fail to reach a satisfactory deal within two years?
  34. Do you accept this too has enormous complexity attached to it; that we would need to negotiate the removal not just of tariff barriers; but the prevention of non-tariff barriers which today are often the biggest impediments to trade?
  35. Do you agree that the fall in the value of sterling against the euro and the dollar as a result of Brexit is an indication that the international financial markets believe we are going to be poorer?
  36. Do you accept that therefore the price of imported goods is up and so will be inflation?
  37. Do you agree that the Single Market and enlargement were huge foreign policy successes for the UK?
  38. Do you agree that the Single Market has brought billions of pounds of wealth, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and major investment opportunities for the UK?
  39. Do you agree that enlargement has enhanced EU and NATO security?
  40. Do you accept that in the early 21<sup>st century, most countries are seeking to forge rather than break regional and economic alliances?
  41. Do you agree we can do more on issues like the environment with others than alone?
  42. Do you agree that the route taken on and since June 23 has helped revive the argument about Scotland leaving the UK?
  43. Do you accept that the failure to address the question of how to maintain EU freedom of movement without a hard border between Ireland and the UK is destabilising the peace process?
  44. Do you accept the government is obsessed with Brexit, and has no choice but to be so?
  45. Do you accept that the scale of government focus on Brexit is having a detrimental impact on their ability to deal with other issues, such as the NHS, education, the new economy, crime, prisons – and, er, immigration policy?
  46. Do you accept there is a cartel of right wing newspapers skewing the debate in the broadcast media, and whose support for May is contingent on her pursuing a hard Brexit policy?
  47. Do you agree that had the business survey mentioned by Tony Blair said the opposite – namely huge confidence in Brexit – it would have led the news because the cartel would have splashed on it, not ignored it?
  48. Do you accept Brexit has divided the country across its nations, regions and generations, contrary to May's claim to have 65 million people behind her?

Alastair Campbell is a British journalist, broadcaster, political aide and author, best known for his work as Director of Communications and Strategy for Prime Minister Tony Blair between 1997 and 2003. He is the author of 12 books, the latest of which is Outside Inside, his diaries from 2003-2005.


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