Former UK leader Tony Blair says Brexit can still be stopped

Key Points
  • Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair said he will do "everything he can" to stop Brexit.
  • Blair, who also led the center-left Labour Party for 13 years, claimed Brexit would be painful or pointless.
  • Britain is due to leave the European Union on 29 March, 2019.
Former UK leader Blair: Brexit either pointless or painful
Former UK leader Blair: Brexit either pointless or painful

The former leader of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, has told an audience in Lisbon that there is still time to stop a Brexit that will only either be "pointless or painful."

Britain is due to leave the European Union in less than five months, although negotiators representing Britain and the EU have so far failed to agree the terms of withdrawal.

Blair has long opposed Britain's departure from the economic and political bloc and told a Web Summit 2018 audience on Wednesday "up to the very end, I am going to do everything I possibly can to stop it."

The former leader, who led the Labour party which is now in opposition, then outlined how he saw Brexit failing.

First, Blair claimed that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's deal is going to lead to a parliamentary defeat and that then would trigger either a General Election, a fresh Brexit referendum, or a "no deal" where the U.K. crashes out of the EU and reverts to WTO rules for trade.

Dismissing the last option, Blair then claimed the ruling Conservative Party would be "suicidal" to go the polls.

"Let's assume they're not, they won't want an election. No deal is obviously absurd. I think at least we should have the chance to go back to the people," he said.

Former UK leader Blair: This is how to stop Brexit
Former UK leader Blair: This is how to stop Brexit

In 2016, more than 17.4 million British people voted to leave the EU, winning the referendum with a 51.9 percent majority.

When asked if having another vote was therefore undemocratic, Blair said it wasn't because the electorate's knowledge of what Brexit means has been "hugely enlarged" since the first referendum.

The former lawmaker said the choices that the U.K. is being forced to make was to stay largely within Europe's rules, which he said was "pointless," or to break clean away, which he said would be "painful."

"My view is very simple — before we go down the path of pointless or painful, ask the question again of the British people. In these circumstances, do you really want to proceed?"

Blair, a Europhile who once gave a speech in fluent French, then raised a sustained cheer when he said "great European nations" should stick together to preserve values and interests, and counter the rise of Chinese power.