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Tony Blair says UK needs a referendum to stop Brexit

May briefing ministers later on Thursday

The United Kingdom should call a referendum to allow voters to choose between a no-deal Brexit and staying in a reformed European Union, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Thursday.

In a Reuters Newsmaker, Blair said there was a 50-50 chance of getting another Brexit referendum as Prime Minister Theresa May will be unlikely to secure a majority for any divorce deal in parliament.

He warned that whatever Brexit is on offer is going to result in significant economic harm and that European regulators would not want the centre of European finance to be outside their orbit. This would mean jobs would be lost in the financial sector.

Blair served as prime minister from 1997 to 2007.

Some members of May's ruling Conservative Party are unhappy about the Brexit proposals she has made. The main opposition Labour Party has indicated it is likely to vote down any deal May brings back.

May will meet ministers on Thursday to discuss Brexit, hours after her parliamentary partner threatened to withdraw its support if she accepts what it calls a "draconian solution" on offer from the European Union.

One of the biggest hurdles is an agreement on the so-called Irish backstop to prevent the return of a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland if there is no immediate trade deal.

A seamless border is part of the settlement which largely ended decades of violence in the province.

After meetings in Brussels, the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up the Conservative government in parliament, has issued a series of terse warnings to May.

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson condemned what he said was the EU's offer for a backstop that would keep Britain in the customs union for an unspecified time-limited period, would exclude Northern Ireland from any new British trade deals and see checks on goods moving from mainland Britain to the province.

May's acceptance of such a proposal "would have implications not just for Brexit legislation – 50 per cent of which would not have passed without DUP support – but also for the budget, welfare reform and other domestic legislation", he said.

"She will not have DUP support regardless of whether the government tries to bribe, bully or browbeat us into accepting it," he wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

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