LONDON — British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has lambasted Tony Blair’s “bare-faced effrontery” after the former prime minister called on British people to “rise up” and prevent the UK from leaving the European Union.
In a speech delivered in London on Friday, Blair said that “the people voted without knowledge of the terms of Brexit,” and suggested that “as the terms become clear it is their right to change their mind — our mission is to persuade them to do so.”
Johnson was a vocal Brexit campaigner in the run-up to the referendum, while Blair was fiercely pro-EU during his tenure as prime minister between 1997 and 2007.
Speaking at a G20 foreign ministers summit in Bonn, Germany, Johnson told Sky News: “I call on the British people to rise up and turn off the TV when Tony Blair next appears with his condescending campaign.”
“Whatever his merits as a former prime minister, [Tony Blair] is the guy who would have taken our country into the Euro with what would have been catastrophic consequences; this is the guy who dragooned the United Kingdom into the Iraq War on a completely false prospectus with consequences which foreign ministers here [at the G20 summit] are still trying to deal with.”
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party co-leader, has called Tony Blair’s intervention in the Brexit debate “staggeringly unhelpful” The Green MP, who urged the Stronger In campaign to avoid the repeated use of establishment voices in the referendum campaign, said it would be better if Blair ‘butted out’ of the debate.
Even politicians campaigning to stay in the EU attacked Blair’s intervention.
“The intervention from Tony Blair is staggeringly unhelpful,” Lucas said.
“For this former Prime Minister, and fully paid-up member of the establishment, to jump in on this debate will only harm the fight against an extreme Brexit. And for Blair of all people to accuse politicians of misleading the public is astoundingly hypocritical, even by his standards.”
“Though I agree with much of what Blair said — and back his defence of free movement in particular — he simply isn’t the right person to be saying it.
“Many people voted to leave the EU because they rightly feel like politics is a game stitched up by men in suits. To be perfectly frank it would be better if Blair butted out and left this debate to people who haven’t betrayed the trust of British people.”
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