TONY Blair has issued a direct plea to opposition MPs not to fall into the elephant trap of a general election before Brexit.

The former prime minister said it was right to go back to the people – but begged politicians not to do this via an election.

Mr Blair has repeatedly called for another EU referendum, and previously said it is “brutally clear” an election would split the opposition.

Speaking to the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists' Association in Edinburgh, he made a direct plea to MPs to heed his warning.

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He said the most likely outcome is now a no-deal Brexit, and insisted this would be a “profound threat to the United Kingdom”.

He said: “I have one major plea that I make of Members of Parliament down in Westminster as they think of the decisions and choices they’re going to make over the next few weeks.

“If there is a deadlock in Parliament – and let’s be clear, there is not a majority for a no-deal Brexit; this would be voted down by a large number of MPs – but if there is going to be a proposition by the Government for a no-deal Brexit and if there is deadlock in Parliament as a result, the right thing is indeed to go back to the people.

“But I beg of you, please, not by way of a general election. To mix a general election up with the specific issue of Brexit is wrong in principle, it’s wrong in politics.”

The former Labour leader said the strategy of the Conservatives is to conflate Brexit with a general election and secure “what they would call a mandate for a no-deal Brexit”.

He added: “It’s vast elephant trap of great width and depth, with neon signs flashing around it, saying ‘Elephant trap – elephants of limited awareness, please fall into it’.

“They should avoid that completely. They should keep absolutely clear that a general election may be justified and you can have it, but it should not be mixed up with the specific question of Brexit.”

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He said a general election would create a “substantial risk that we end up with a no-deal Brexit”.

Elsewhere, Mr Blair – who was prime minister between 1997 and 2007 – said he remained a “convinced unionist”.

But he added: “It would be foolish to deny that if what is proposed is a no-deal Brexit, and we were to do such a thing, then it would be a whole additional dimension to the argument for independence, that those who wish independence would use, and use persuasively.

“That is why I continue to think that no Brexit is a better solution than no-deal Brexit. I think that is still possible.”

He said the Labour Party “has moved further to the left than ever before in its history, and is for the moment at least the only serious contender for government”.

He added: “What all of this will mean, I believe, is that there will be a yearning north of the Border and south of the Border, for a politics that is more rooted in what I would call the rational centre.

“For a politics that is less divided than the politics that we have presently.

“For a politics that sees the divide that we have in the UK at the moment as as much a cultural divide as it is an economic divide, and tries to reach for a politics to unify.

“My belief is that it will be clear over these next months that there is the potential for renewal of the centre ground in politics.

“I think that’s true in the UK as a whole; I think that’s true in Scotland as well.

“With the departure from the scene of Ruth Davidson from politics in Scotland, there is a very open space for the competition for that centre ground vote.”

Mr Blair said there is a “huge opportunity for Scottish Labour if it is a Labour Party that celebrates the Union, recognises that for the UK to stay in Europe is a natural part of sensible alliance building in today’s world, and that reaches for a forward and modern policy agenda that understands that modern world and has policies that are able to meet its challenges.”