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Since he retired as Prime Minister in 2007, Tony Blair has led a relatively quiet life. Due to the inquiry over the Iraq War, security worries prevented him from attending the launch of his own memoirs. He also appears to have lost every battle he cared about or was involved in – from Jeremy Corbyn leading the Labour Party to Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
According to a report by The Economist, though, the coronavirus crisis is giving him a new lease of political life.
He is reportedly dedicating his personal energy and the collective resources of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, last week, he made an extraordinary intervention, describing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to scrap the Department for International Development as “wrong and regressive”.
As many wonder whether his next step will be fully returning to politics, unearthed reports shed light on his long-running battle against Brexit.
According to a throwback report by The Telegraph, in March 2019, sources in Paris confirmed Mr Blair had been speaking to French President Emmanuel Macron about keeping Britain in the EU.
The former Prime Minister reportedly believed that if the bloc stood its ground over the Brexit deal, Parliament would have caved in and accepted a customs union – which would have kept Britain yoked to Brussels or triggered a second referendum that could have cancelled Brexit altogether.
The Sunday Times quoted a Conservative source saying of Mr Blair’s dealings with Mr Macron: “He’s saying, ‘You’ve got to hold firm and then we’ll end up staying’.”
Sources in Paris said Mr Blair had been “lobbying” the French President, but drew a distinction between lobbying and briefing.
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They declined to comment on Mr Macron’s response to the approach from Mr Blair.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: “We don’t comment on private meetings.”
Conservative MP Peter Bone said at the time: “It is totally unacceptable for a former Prime Minister to go around the heads of European countries and undermine the Government’s position.
“I’m not sure we could find another time in modern history when this has happened.
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“Tony Blair has to realise he has had his time as Prime Minister and I’m surprised and disappointed he has done this.
“I doubt he would have liked it if his predecessors had done this to him.
“Thankfully, I don’t think it will have any effect other than to damage his legacy.”
Mr Blair was an outspoken advocate of a second referendum, and told European leaders it was “probable” a second referendum would have happened.
He had previously met former European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for private talks about negotiating with Britain over Brexit.
Mr Blair told Euronews in 2019: “I don’t disclose the people I speak to because that should remain private between me and the leaders I talk to.
“But I think it’s very obvious…I need to get the European leaders to the next stage which is to realise that the probability is it’s going to happen and they’ve got to prepare for it.”
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