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Anger as Blair says migrants don’t affect Britons’ job prospects: Is this a sign he’s set his sights on the EU presidency?

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  • Tony Blair attacked Ukip claiming they were pandering to prejudice
  • The former PM said unemployed people needed new skills
  • He said young people were being held back by their own lack of education
  • Scroll down for video

Tony Blair was accused of ‘mind-boggling arrogance’ last night after claiming mass immigration made no difference to the job prospects of unemployed Britons.

The former prime minister launched a scathing attack on Nigel Farage and Ukip, saying politicians hostile to immigration were guilty of pandering to unpleasant prejudice.

They were also guilty of deceiving the public by giving the impression that the arrival of migrants from Poland and other countries harmed their job prospects.

The truth, he said, was that the ‘white, working-class, unemployed youth in alienated communities in Britain’ were held back by their own lack of education and skills.

In what many critics see as further proof that Mr Blair is positioning himself for a bid to become president of the European Council, he told an audience of business chiefs in London that it was ‘dangerous and wrong’ to blame immigrants for unemployment among British workers.

He said it was ‘a deception to tell  people they’re better off shutting down in the face of [global change] or stigmatising those different in race, colour, religion or faith’.

‘The answer to the white, working-class, unemployed youth in alienated communities in Britain is not to tell them their problems would be solved if there were fewer Polish people working in the UK. It is to provide them with the education and the skills and the  connectivity that gives them the ability to face the world’s challenges and overcome them.

‘Anything else is worse than a delusion – it actually holds them back by giving them a grievance rather than a chance. It is dangerous and wrong for leaders in British politics to think you are going to address the concerns of people worried about jobs, their future, how they get some hope and opportunity – to play into an idea that what’s holding them back is someone else coming in and taking their opportunity from them, because it isn’t true and it’s not helpful.’

He added: ‘If you look at what’s going to make this country great in the future it is to use the  connections that Britain has – its language, its position in the world, its history. If we do that, we’re going to be highly successful as a country. We’re never going to do it by an attitude that says we don’t like foreigners.

‘You have got to distinguish between the justifiable concerns and the desire for order and what is, in the end, a prejudice that is neither very pleasant nor very fruitful.’ Mr Blair is widely seen as having thrown open the gates to mass immigration as prime minister. In the mid-1990s, net migration was consistently around 50,000 a year. But during the 2000s it regularly topped 200,000. 

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