Tony Blair hits back at Theresa May in war of words over second Brexit referendum

Posted On: 
16th December 2018

Tony Blair has hit back at Theresa May in a dramatic war of words between political heavyweights after she criticised his calls for a second EU referendum.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair made a speech on Brexit this week at the British Academy in London
Credit: 
PA Images

The former prime minister lashed out after his successor said his campaign to give the public a final say on her Brexit deal was an “insult to the office he once held”.

He argued her attempts to "steamroller" her controversial Brexit deal through parliament was "irresponsible" and insisted a fresh referendum was the "sensible" way forward. 

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Mr Blair has argued going back to the people is the logical conclusion of the Brexit chaos, amid deadlock in Parliament and with the EU.

The Prime Minister was last week forced to pull a crunch Commons vote on her deal in the face of certain defeat, while Brussels has been unwilling to reopen talks to hammer out a plan MPs can agree on.

In an unexpected blast last night, Mrs May turned on Mr Blair and said his campaign was “undermining” Britain’s position in negotiations.

But a defiant Mr Blair insisted he would not be silenced as he argued her criticism of his calls to seek direction from the public was "strange".

He added: “What is irresponsible... is to try to steamroller MPs into accepting a deal they genuinely think is a bad one with the threat that if they do not fall into line, the Government will have the country crash out without a deal.

“My call is for Europe as well as our own Parliament to prepare for the possibility now gathering momentum that we may go back to the people in a further referendum. Again this is surely sensible given the impasse we have reached."

And he said: "I do not disrespect [Theresa May] at all. I understand her frustration. But I profoundly believe that the course she is pursuing will not work and is emphatically not in the national interest. And that’s the reason I am speaking out and shall continue to do so.”

The Prime Minister said yesterday: “For Tony Blair to go to Brussels and seek to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum is an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served."

“We cannot, as he would, abdicate responsibility for this decision. Parliament has a democratic duty to deliver what the British people voted for.”

She fumed that there were “too many people who want to subvert the process for their own political interests”.