WATCH: Blair warns Labour of early election “trap”

Tony Blair, former Labour leader and Prime Minister, has warned Jeremy Corbyn’s party that the government is laying a “trap” by appearing to be forced into an early election while preparing for that outcome.

If Boris Johnson decides to call a snap election, “it should be refused in favour of a referendum”, Blair argued this morning. Opposition parties including Labour should not back one “until Brexit is resolved”, he added.

Green MP Caroline Lucas made the same demand earlier in the summer, and other campaigners for a fresh referendum have called on the Labour leader not to endorse an early election unless Johnson agrees first to request an Article 50 extension and delay Brexit again.

Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, at least two-thirds of the Commons would have to vote in favour of an early general election should the Prime Minister seek to hold one. Johnson may choose this route if MPs are able to legislate against no deal on October 31st before parliament is suspended next week.

Although Labour has agreed with other opposition parties to prioritise passing legislation blocking no deal this week, the party continues to seek an election as soon as possible. It is expected to support triggering a snap poll unless Johnson tries to fix the date after October 31st, which would take the UK out of the EU without a deal during the campaign period.

Addressing this possibility on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Keir Starmer said: “We’ve been thinking long and hard about that because we have to have a way of ensuring that we don’t crash out during the course of an election. I’m not going to get into the details but we are absolutely on that point.”

It is expected that the details of plans to prevent no deal will be revealed when MPs return to parliament tomorrow following summer recess. According to a draft motion leaked to Buzzfeed News, rebel MPs will try to pass legislation in “just a few hours”.

Blair’s speech today began: “In the modern history of Britain, there’s never been a more important moment for politicians to put country before tribe and national interest before self-interest. We’re numb to the state of our politics. What is happening is shocking, irresponsible and dangerous.

“Our government is ripping Britain out of the EU – by common acceptance the most important change in this country’s affairs since 1945 – in the most extreme form of Brexit imaginable. Without an agreement to replace the complicated network of political and commercial arrangements we have built over decades of European membership.

“And it’s doing so without the consent of parliament, but with a deliberate manouvre to curtail it. And without the express consent of the British people, relying instead on a one-off plebiscite now over three years ago in which – not for one moment – was it suggested by those advocating Brexit that no deal would be the outcome.”

He added: “Should the government seeks an election, it should be refused in favour of a referendum. I know it’s counter-intuitive for opposition parties to refuse an election, but in this exceptional case it’s vital they do so – as a matter of principle – until Brexit is resolved.

“Brexit is an issue which stands on its own, was originally decided on its own and should be reconsidered on its own. The Brexiteers are laying a trap – to seem as if pushed into an election while actively preparing for one.”

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