Blair: Britain Needs a Second Referendum, Maybe a Third Too

Tony Blair
Jeff J Mitchell-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Iraq War architect Tony Blair is at the forefront of the campaign to overturn Britain’s vote to Leave the European Union once again.

The former prime minister criticised his successor Jeremy Corbyn for Labour’s “timidity” in failing to come out in favour of overturning the Brexit vote publicly, urging the opposition party to “fight for the right for the country to re-think” on Wednesday.

“[I]f Labour continues to go along with Brexit and insists on leaving the Single Market, the handmaiden of Brexit will have been the timidity of Labour,” he pleaded.

Blair elaborated on these comments on the January 4th edition of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, in a faltering performance observers described as “manic” and “hesitant”.

The 64-year-old struggled to support many of his claims, perhaps having lost some of his old debating skills during his long years as a vilified figure on the fringes of British politics after his resignation in 2007.

For example, he failed to demonstrate that the Brexit had vote inflicted terrific economic damage as a matter of fact, with presenter John Humphrys pointing out that the economy of Britain is set to overtake the economy of France, which is still firmly embedded in the European Union — and faster than forecasters anticipated.

Similarly, when asked to support allegations that the Leave vote had precipitated a crisis in the National Health Service (NHS), he pointed to a sharp fall in the number of EU nurses being recruited — but was flummoxed when Humphrys pointed out this has been attributed to new requirements for foreign staff to pass English language tests, not Brexit.

Overall, the number of EU nationals working in the NHS actually rose in the year following the Brexit vote.

Blair’s greatest challenge was making a convincing argument that his attempts to thwart Brexit are not an obvious display of contempt for the British public’s perfectly clear decision to Leave the European Union in June 2016.

“I’m not disputing that we’ve had the referendum, and I’m not disputing the result — I’m simply saying that the debate doesn’t stop at that point,” he insisted, somewhat contradictorily. “We are entitled to think again.”

Humphrys then asked Blair whether, “if [you] don’t like the result of that, might we have a third referendum?”

He declined to rule it out.

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