The following is an excerpt from an email interview that University Canada West (UCW) conducted with Professor Lord David Blunkett prior to his June 15 visit to the university to present a June 15 lecture on Brexit.
Q: Why have you changed your mind from the mid 1970s when you voted no to Britain staying in Europe? What has changed in the world?
A: What has changed is where power lies and how the nation state exercises influence in that very different world environment: The European Structure, from the Commission through the EU Civil Service. Nevertheless, the challenge is that of facing ever more rapid globalization and how to counterweight those powerful forces of public and private that now confront any nation whose government seeks to represent the interests of its population on the world stage.
Q: Why do you think Britain should now stay in the EU?
A: There are a number of reasons why Britain is better off inside the European Union. The most obvious area is that of the economy, and linked to it, employment and trade. Access to a single market with a population of 550 million, simply makes economic sense. Whilst, as Canadians will know, it is possible to negotiate access to a Free Trade Area, in the case of the European Union, (they) make the rules.
Estimates vary as to how much UK citizens would lose if Britain left the EU. All the serious economists and organizations respected in this field put the figure at somewhere between £2700 and £4300 per resident.
Q: What worries you the most about Britain leaving the EU?
A: I am very concerned about how Britain’s exit would limit its ability to contribute to building alliances, improving the operation of EU institutions, and above all, getting the European Union to understand the importance of combining together in dealings with major global companies. All of us know that major global financial institutions have a dramatic impact on our lives. Certainly in Europe we saw that vividly in the global meltdown and crash of 2008. We know it in terms of the power of those major companies dealing in global communications.
Q: What do you see as some examples of monopolies and giant corporations needing a collective watchdog on how they do business?
A: Google, Facebook, Apple to name a few, and of course those gradually developing a monopoly of particular aspects of consumer life – for instance, Amazon. The tax avoidance schemes of major companies, including global outreach, such as Starbucks, require common action. The European Union could act as a major driving force in helping to provide a voice and influence for those without power and wealth.
Q: What is it that concerns you about immigration if Brexit is approved?
A: I am deeply concerned about the belief by those who wish to exit from Europe that somehow Britain would be able to defend its borders and determine its migration policy more effectively on its own. It has superficial attraction. It fails completely to understand that the outer border of the EU is crucial to what happens to Britain in or out of the EU.
An example of this is the flow of refugees through Turkey (escaping death and torture in Syria) and coming into the European Union via Greece and the Balkans, whilst Italy has literally been taking thousands of immigrants per day, coming across the Mediterranean from North Africa. In other words, people movements are everyone’s challenge in terms of managing and supporting those who are genuine refugees, and taking on and having to face the challenge of economic migrants.
Q: What do you think will be the outcome of the Brexit vote?
A: All meaningful opinion polls show that this will be a very close run referendum vote. A great deal depends on whether young people, who are on the whole in favour of staying in Europe, register and vote. It is clear at this moment that those over the age of 65 are most likely to vote in large numbers, and are most likely to vote to leave the EU.
Those who see their future in a global context, who travel, who have no fear of difference—of colour, faith or culture—are more likely to be welcoming of, and to want to play a part in a multinational framework such as the EU.
Q: Why should North America care about the outcome of Brexit?
A: It is important that areas outside the EU, including North America, appreciate that Brexit, if passed, would have dramatic effects elsewhere. There is a lot to be heeded about the geo political balance that would be dislocated if Britain left the EU. The alliances, the counterweight that the UK provides, were seen by many as crucial to avoiding what nations across the world sought to prevent happening again after the Second World War. Namely, that one nation because of its size, its economy and its geographical position, should never again dominate the continent of Europe. Britain’s place in the European Union is a vital element in that crucial balance.
June 7, 2016
UCW News Team
Carol Thorbes, Communications/Media Relations