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Tony Blair warns leaving EU would be 'monumental error'

The former prime minister is pushing back against growing Euroskepticism.

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair leaves after Queen Elizabeth II addressed both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall on March 20, 2012 in London, England. (Dan Kitwood/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain's former prime minister Tony Blair said Wednesday that the UK would be making a "monumental error" that would threaten its global influence if it decided to drop its membership in the European Union. 

During a speech at the Chatham House think tank in London, Blair made thinly disguised attacks on current Prime Minister David Cameron.

AFP reports that Blair said there was a "real and present danger" that Cameron's policy of renegotiating Britain's position in the European Union could push the country toward an exit. 

"Europe is a destiny we will never embrace easily. But it is an absolutely essential part of our nation remaining a world power politically and economically," Blair said.

"It would be a monumental error of statesmanship to turn our back on it and fall away from a crucial position of power and influence in the 21st century."

Cameron has indicated that he wants to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the 27-member EU bloc, reports the Independent.

The UK is one of ten members of the bloc who do not use the euro for its currency. The ongoing euro crisis is making leaving the EU more attractive to many members of the UK public.

A recent poll in The Observer newspaper found that 56 percent of those surveyed would vote for an exit.

Conservative members of Cameron's Tory party have been pressuring the prime minister to call a decisive vote on Britain’s membership in the EU at the next general election in 2015, reports the Telegraph.

So far, the prime minister has resisted, but has said he wants redefine ties with the EU and create a looser bond. 

The New York Times reports that Blair said leaving the EU was the wrong response to the euro crisis and those who wanted to pull out of the bloc were advocating a policy that was “politically debilitating, economically damaging and hugely destructive of Britain’s long-term interests.”

“Our country faces a real and present danger by edging towards the exit,” Blair said.

Conservative MP Douglas Carswell submitted a private Member's bill to Parliament last month calling for a repeal of the 1972 treaty allowing the UK to join the former European Economic Community, reports the BBC.

Carswell acknowledged the bill had little chance of becoming law but said that the debate over leaving the EU was now a "mainstream" rather than a "maverick" view. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/121128/tony-blair-warns-leaving-eu-would-be-monumental-error