Bill Clinton has suggested that some people who voted for Brexit may only just be realising the consequences of their choice.
The former US president made the comments as he received an honorary doctorate at Dublin City University for his work on the Northern Ireland peace process.
Mimicking a voter, he said: “I’m sorry we can’t stay together, we had a disagreement. Oh my God, I didn’t know I was going to lose that customs thing and all these economic benefits. Why didn’t anyone tell me that?”
He warned that the Brexit vote was a result of people thinking differences are more important that what people have in common.
“Now, there are lots of people who think they are less human,” the 71-year-old said.
“Given the economic inequalities and the rapid pace of social change… people are reassessing whether what we have in common is more important than our differences.
“A lot of people begged to differ. That’s really what the Brexit vote is all about.”
Mr Clinton warned about division and inequality in his speech to hundreds of guests and students at the university’s Helix venue.
He said: “The world is now in a conflict whether we should stop our mingling with others at the tribal level or whether communities are better… We can’t get away from each other so we should look at our neighbours without
regard to their race, religion, their orientation or whatever.”
Midway through his first term as president, Mr Clinton took a more hands-on approach to diplomacy and played a major role in the Good Friday Agreement being signed in 1998.
He received the highest award offered by Dublin City University – an honorary doctorate of philosophy – for his efforts in the historic accord, which he described as a “wonderful blinding moment of bigness”.
“The children of God and humans chose community,” he said.
He said now was a time for people to learn lessons from that agreement, which brought an end to the 30 years of conflict known as the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
After the presentation, Mr Clinton went to Belfast for meetings with Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams and Michelle O’Neill.
Speaking after the meeting, Ms O’Neill said: “We had a wide ranging discussion on a number of issues including the current difficulties facing the political process, efforts to restore the political institutions on the basis of rights and equality and the implications of Brexit.”
The day before getting his doctorate, Mr Clinton was photographed walking around Dublin during Storm Ophelia and even posed for selfies with some locals.