Britain must prove to be successful for any EU return, says ex-PM Blair

Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair attends an event at Thomson Reuters in London, Britain, October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will have to prove itself to be a successful nation after Brexit if it ever wants to return to the European Union, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Friday, calling for strong leadership to make the country’s voice heard.

A vocal opponent of Britain’s departure from the EU, Blair again said he was against Brexit but accepted its reality after the country completed its journey out of the bloc at the end of last year. Leaders should now make the best of it, he added.

Not mentioning Prime Minister Boris Johnson by name, Blair said British leaders would have to implement “radical changes” or fall into decline, warning that Brexit had made sure that without some reinvention the country could be left behind.

“If a return to Europe is ever to be undertaken by a new generation, Britain should do it as a successful nation Europe is anxious to embrace not as a supplicant with no other options,” he said at a Chatham House event.

“In any event we should make a virtue of necessity and see in Brexit’s consequences an opportunity and an obligation to renew our country and its place in the world.”

He called for leadership on climate change, new technology and for Britain to try to overcome its divisions, saying in the case of Scotland, Brexit had give nationalists a “whole new lease of life”.

“A strong, successful outward-looking Britain can arise post-Brexit,” he said. “This is the moment of truth for the pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit camps alike.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Costas Pitas; editing by Michael Holden