LONDON Jan 23 Britain's pro-EU former Labour
Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday he felt a "huge stab
of anxiety" about the prospect of an in/out referendum on the
His Conservative successor David Cameron has pledged to give
Britons a referendum choice on whether to stay in the EU if he
wins an election in 2015.
Speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Switzerland, Blair told Sky TV that Britain's eventual exit from
the EU was now on the agenda.
"The thing that sends a huge stab of anxiety through any of
us that believe that Britain's place in the 21st Century has got
to be as a key player in the largest political union, the
biggest business market in the world, is that we're now putting
on the table the prospect of Britain leaving Europe in a
referendum in four or five years' time," he said.
"Why would we do that now? We don't know what the rest of
Europe is going to propose by way of changes resulting from this
euro crisis, we don't know yet the detail of what we're going to
argue in Europe," he added.
"Surely what is better is to have that debate, try and shape
the process in Europe and then decide where we are."
Blair said he agreed with Cameron when he said in a landmark
speech earlier on Wednesday that reform was needed in Europe.
"Ninety percent of that speech is ... the British Prime
Minister addressing the British national interest," he said.
"It's the climax to the speech (the referendum pledge) that
I'm afraid is really about the internal European problem in the
Conservative party and how they placate this UKIP party."
The Conservatives have long argued amongst themselves about
whether Britain should be an EU member, a division eagerly
exploited by the small but vociferous anti-EU UK Independence
Party (UKIP) which is rising in opinion polls.
Blair added: "There's got to be a compelling reason to put
that (referendum) question on the agenda. I don't see that
compelling reason now."