Tony Blair calls for second Brexit referendum

New Delhi: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday opined that the United Kingdom should hold a second Brexit referendum, contradicting incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May’s views on the issue.

Participating in a debate titled — ‘The Waning West: Can it Discover a New Direction?’, along with former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Blair said that the ultimate decision lies in the hands of the people of UK.

“We in the UK have got to make a choice as to whether we want the pointless or the painful Brexit, or if we want to go back to the people and ask them how they want to proceed. Britain decided to leave the European Union (EU) by referendum, so putting the final say on it back to the people is the only way to resolve the matter,” he said at the Raisina Dialogue here.

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In 2016, over 50 per cent of the UK electorate voted to leave the EU, following which the British government had triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, beginning the country’s process of exiting the European bloc.

According to the withdrawal agreement, the UK is scheduled to leave the bloc on March 29, 2019, after which it will move into a 21-month long transitional period with the EU.

May, who dismissed the prospects of a second Brexit referendum, had halted the parliamentary vote on the deal on December 10 last year to put forth concerns voiced by British MPs with her European counterparts.

She made a whirlwind trip to the EU, visiting Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium to meet with European leaders for the same. However, the European Commission (EUCO) reiterated that the deal will not be renegotiated.

The British Prime Minister also survived a no-confidence motion initiated by her disgruntled lawmakers of the Conservative Party over her handling of the Brexit negotiations.

Meanwhile, Blair acknowledged that partnerships will be inked with central countries like India in the future, as a new world order is emerging. “The West may appear to be waning but the West can recover its position,” he noted.

“The rise of China is the biggest geopolitical fact of my children’s lifetime. There will be a battle partly about interests, but it could also be about values, so countries who share the same values should stick together. For China to get to the next stage of economic development, there is a need to resolve several systemic issues, like the rule of law, before it can progress,” he said.

Blair further said that it is the responsibility of the people in a democracy to find solutions to challenges, adding that Europe will struggle until the issues of its citizens are heard.

“The crucial aspect that must survive through American presidencies is retaining strong global leaderships,” he said.

The fourth Raisina Dialogue is underway till January 10 and has around 600 delegates from 92 countries participating in around 50 hours worth of debates and discussions. The conference is hosted by the Observer Research Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs.


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