Tony Blair has urged Labour to ensure a no-deal Brexit is ruled out completely – including if upcoming EU trade talks turn “ugly” – before agreeing to an election.
The former Labour prime minister called on party leader Jeremy Corbyn to ensure no-deal is entirely off the table as an option, and not only until January.
The Prime Minister is due to ask MPs on Monday to give him a general election on December 12.
He requires, under the Fixed-Terms Parliament Act, a two-thirds Commons majority, making Labour the linchpin in approving a pre-Christmas polling date.
But Mr Blair said, even if the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) ends up being signed off by Parliament, the future negotiations with Brussels over a post-Brexit trading arrangement were likely to end in a no-deal scenario.
Mr Johnson’s deal has agreed terms over a divorce payment to the EU, rights for EU citizens living in Britain and how to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
If ratified, the UK will enter into a transition period until December 2020 where it will continue to obey European rules while a new trading agreement is thrashed out.
Should a trade deal prove elusive, Britain could be forced to revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms with the EU – known more commonly as no-deal.
Mr Blair told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour: “The sensible thing for him (Mr Corbyn) to say to Boris Johnson is, ‘Yes, I’ll agree to your general election, but you’ve got to agree to timetable proper scrutiny of your Bill and allow us to amend that so that we rule out no-deal as the outcome of the future negotiation’.
“Because otherwise Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t prevented no-deal. He can make that happen.
“He can say, the moment that’s done properly, he’s up for a general election. But it’s got to encompass the future negotiations and not simply the exit deal.”
The EU is considering an extension to Article 50 after Mr Johnson, acting on the Benn Act, asked leaders for a delay until January 31.
Mr Blair, who won three general elections, said any short-term extension would only postpone the threat of no-deal until the trade negotiations start up.
Mr Johnson wants a free trade deal with the EU but Mr Blair said a no-deal outcome was the most likely option.
“Europe is now on notice from Britain and its ministers that Britain wants Brexit to compete around tax and regulation, to become an off-shore competitor with the European Union,” he said, in an interview due to be broadcast on Sunday evening.
“What is absolutely clear is that Europe is not going to have that. And they’re going to say to the UK side – this is why this negotiation is going to be very ugly and very difficult – they’re going to say, ‘No, we’re not giving you tariff-free access to our markets if you’re going to start using a whole lot of competitive tax and regulatory measures in order to undercut us’.”
The 66-year-old, who is favour of the giving the public a final say on Brexit, said any second referendum should have three options – including a no-deal Brexit – on the ballot paper.
He said Remain supporters would have to accept that a three-question referendum was “the sensible thing to do”, with the PM’s deal, Remain and no-deal all options.
A so-called “people’s vote” could happen on the “same day” as a general election, said the New Labour pioneer.