Tony Blair, member of the British Labour party and former prime minister of the United Kingdom, wrote an op-ed for Friday’s New York Times that discussed “Brexit,” the nickname for “British exit” that has been used to describe Thursday’s referendum in the UK through which the British public voted to leave the European Union (EU) — becoming the first country to voluntarily do so since the EU’s inception.
“For a day, the British people were the government, and by 52 percent to 48 percent, they took the decision to go. […] The immediate impact of the Brexit vote is economic. The fallout has been as swift as it was predictable. At one point on Friday, the pound hit a 30-year low against the dollar, and a leading British stock index had dropped more than 8 percent. The nation’s credit rating is under threat. […] It was already clear before the Brexit vote that modern populist movements could take control of political parties. What wasn’t clear was whether they could take over a country like Britain. Now we know they can.”
Tony Blair used his op-ed to accuse current Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn of being “lukewarm” on the issue of whether the UK should leave the EU, allowing a “significant segment of Labour voters” to be wooed by the promises of the Leave campaign that Brexit would fix what they perceive to be an immigration problem in the United Kingdom. Blair also mentioned “a convergence of the far left and far right” that many American pundits have also noticed in the United States.
Tony Blair made this point without mentioning presumptive 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump nor the notoriously anti-establishment movement bolstering Democratic primary challenger Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), but it is plainly obvious that these American political movements were in mind as Blair wrote about the complexities and global ramifications of not only Brexit itself but the unrest that led to it.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) June 26, 2016
Tony Blair used hedging language on the BBC’s Sunday Politics program this weekend in suggesting a repeat of Thursday’s Brexit vote, stating that he can’t really imagine it as it would be unprecedented. However, because the referendum itself is unprecedented, Blair stated that he will not rule out the possibility of a second referendum. It is important to note that Blair’s point is stronger because the referendum itself is non-binding when it comes to the UK Parliament, which does have the power to subvert the will of the voters regarding Brexit, although it is not expected that this will happen.
“As I’m looking at it here, I can’t see how we can do [refuse to honor Thursday’s Brexit vote]. But, you know, the point is, why rule anything out right now? […] I can’t see how you would go through all of the mechanics of another referendum now. I just can’t see it. But on the other hand I also think there will be a lot of people in the country who will say, ‘Well, let’s have a look at this and see what we are going to do,’ and Parliament will want to look at it. […] It is not in the interests of Europe or of Britain to rush this. We are dealing with vast consequences for our economy, for our politics, for our security and we have got to take it very carefully.”
— Evening Standard (@standardnews) June 26, 2016
Tony Blair’s somewhat hopeful sentiment with regard to the possibility of a second Brexit referendum is shared by many. According to the Evening Standard, a petition requesting a do-over vote has been signed by an impressive 3 million people. Tony Blair is clearly not alone.
Tony Blair’s thinly veiled wish for a do-over is likely shared by so many largely because, while England and Wales overwhelmingly voted Leave (with the notable exception of London), Scotland and Northern Ireland overwhelmingly voted Remain, which has prompted powerful calls for Scottish independence and for a united Ireland — calls that are widely expected to be satisfied, meaning the United Kingdom may be no more because of the Brexit vote.
— NYT Opinion (@nytopinion) June 24, 2016
Prime Minister David Cameron stated in his Friday morning speech that his resignation will be effective in October. From there, the clock begins to tick on a two-year deadline, during which time the UK must negotiate its “Brexit” from the EU with the European Parliament as well as with the governments of the other 27 EU member nations. This is a complex process that Tony Blair described as slow and “agonizing.”
Tony Blair talking Trump: "There is a strange coming together of the populism from the left and the right" pic.twitter.com/DQCvvQTnF0
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) June 24, 2016
What do you think? The pound sterling is plummeting– should the UK Parliament subvert the will of the voters, or should they hold a second referendum? Is Tony Blair right not to rule it out?
[Image courtesy of Jack Taylor/Getty Images]