Blair: U.K. Cannot Rule Out Second Brexit Referendum

Tony Blair
Former British prime minister Tony Blair in Londonderry, Northern Ireland June 9, 2016. Blair has said the U.K. cannot rule out a second Brexit referendum. Jeff J Mitchell/Reuters

Tony Blair has said that the U.K. cannot rule out a second referendum on its EU membership, but that the priority for both sides of the debate had to be reaching a sensible deal with the bloc.

Asked on the BBC's Sunday Politics show whether he would back a second referendum, Blair said: "As I'm looking at it here, I can't see how we could do that. But the point is: why rule anything out?"

He said that after a divisive campaign short on policy detail, both sides had to come together and lead the public through an open process of redefining the U.K.'s relationship with Europe:

"If there is a desire in the Leave camp to try and bring the country back together," he said, "I think we also have to show a maturity in the politics of Remain and work out how we do this best for the country."

When the electorate voted on Thursday to take Britain out of the European Union, they had "Taken the decision to swap homes, if you like, without seeing what the other [home] looks like," he said. "Now we're going to be in this new relationship with Europe we've got to work out what really is in our interest."

"I can't see how you'd go through all the mechanics of another referendum now."

A petition originally posted before the referendum and calling on the government to call a second referendum if the "Remain" or "Leave" vote was less than 60 percent with a turnout of less than 75 percent, has continued to gather momentum since the poll, and currently stands at over three million signatures.

Blair also said that if many other European countries were to hold a similar referendum, they might produce similar results. If European nations wanted to quash Euroskepticism across the continent, he said, they should not be too hasty in their treatment of Britain during its renegotiation on its relationship with the continent.

"Europe itself can take one of two views," he said: "They can say 'you guys have said you're going to leave, get out as fast as possible.'

"The other thing they could do... Is to think 'OK, the British had their referendum, but we have the same strains of opinion, the same anxieties in our own countries. Let's think about how we deal with those and let's not look on the Brits as outliers.'"