Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair says Brexit vote 'humbling'

AP News
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Posted: Jul 15, 2016 4:50 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday that he was humbled and discomforted by last month's Brexit vote, saying Britain's decision to leave the European Union left him questioning his understanding of politics despite his decades of experience.

Blair made the comments during a speech at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. In a surprise, Blair was joined onstage by former President Bill Clinton, who said he believes the Brexit decision will decrease cooperation and increase dysfunction.

"What drove the Brexit vote is what's driving politics in many parts of the world: a sense of alienation people have from political systems, a view that there's a political elite that's out of touch with the people," Blair said. "And I think social media is itself a revolutionary phenomenon which allows insurgent movements to grow at scale and at speed in a way that when I was first in politics, never happened."

But he said he didn't fully understand what led British voters to support leaving the EU.

"One thing that's been quite humbling for me, and interesting and somewhat discomforting, has been the degree to which, having spent a lifetime in politics, and thinking, you know, I was quite good at it, I'm wondering, 'Am I understanding it?'" he said.

Blair made no mention of a British inquiry that sharply criticized him for his role in leading the country into the Iraq War, nor did he comment on the new prime minister, Theresa May. He said the narrow Brexit vote shouldn't be viewed as a protest but as a decision with major consequences.

"Our economy has definitely suffered a setback," he said.