Blair fights shy of full apology for slave trade

London, November 27:

Tony Blair is to express Britain’s profound sorrow over the slave trade, but will not give an unreserved apology for fear it will lead to claims for reparations from descendants of Africans sold into slavery.

The move follows pressure from African and Caribbean countries as well as Lady Amos, the black Labour leader of the House of Lords. It comes ahead of the 200th anniversary of slavery’s abolition next March. Plans for Blair’s apology became public this month after Lady Amos showed notes from a meeting with the prime minister discussing whether to back a UN resolution on slavery tabled by Caribbean countries.

The notes contained the phrases ‘window closing, political pressure mounts, get it out of way’ and ‘do it before end of year’. The notes said the apology would be ‘internationally recognised’ and ‘status enhancing’.

Blair, in a statement to be published in the black New Nation newspaper, will say, “It is hard to believe what would now be a crime against humanity was legal at the time. I believe the bicentenary offers us not only a chance to say how profoundly shameful the slave trade was - how we condemn its existence utterly and pra-ise those who fought for its abolition - but also to express our deep sorrow that it could ever have happened and rejoice at the better times we live in.”

Many African countries insist that an apology would not lead to claims for reparations. In 1999 Liverpool city council apologised for the city’s part in the trade.