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What Britain's EU referendum may mean for us

Last Updated Jun 13, 2016 at 7:18 am PDT

Lord David Blunkett (Source: University Canada West)

David Blunkett served in Tony Blair's cabinet for eight years.

A high-profile British politician is in Vancouver this week to talk about what might happen if the UK decides to leave t

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – What is Brexit and why should we care? A high-profile British politician is in Vancouver this week to talk about what might happen if the UK decides to leave the European Union. David Blunkett served in Tony Blair’s cabinet for eight years and was Britain’s Home Secretary at the time of the 9/11 terror attacks. He now sits in the House of Lords and teaches politics at the University of Sheffield. NEWS 1130 spoke with Blunkett about the potential impacts if Britain votes to leave the bloc.

Why should North Americans care about Brexit?

“Well, firstly, I think it’s really important that people across the world understand where power really lies. And power really lies in the hands of the very large international corporations, whether it’s Google or Facebook, whether it’s big mining corporations, or whether it’s Amazon. And with the very large trading agreements that have been reached… and with the large countries such as India and China, populations of 1.2 billion each, and in that global environment, it’s really important that countries join up and work closely together. From the school playground, right through to the formation in the early part of the last century of the trade union movement, people understood that strength lay in working together and that’s really the message we’re trying to get across to persuade the British people to stay and it’s the message, I think, that we want people to hear, our friends, and you are our friends, across the world, who have been saying, in very large numbers, ‘For goodness sake, stick in there, argue your case, deal with the problems that you see within the European Union and continue to work across the world in a united fashion.'”

You’ve said you believe Britain would be more effective within the EU in terms of fighting terrorism, organized crime, and mass migration. How so?

“Well, when I speak to University Canada West on Wednesday morning. I’m going to say there are three Ps. There’s power, where power lies. There’s protection, and that’s security, but it’s also about world trade and tariffs. And, it’s about people movements, with 19 million people actually on the move across the world outside their own boundaries displaced by war and division. And, we can only actually tackle those three Ps by actually being part of blocs, part of a world where people are cooperating in a relatively small continent geographically like Europe, but with a very large overall population, over 550 million within the 28 countries of the EU, we need cooperation to be able to tackle those global challenges, and they are global. But, within Europe as we’ve seen with the influx of migrants from Syria and other conflict zones, you’re going to have to deal them wherever you are. And, one of the twists of all of this is that Canada, with its organized migration policy, is actually taking a very large, a larger number per head of population into your country than we are, yet there is a panic going on within the United Kingdom about migration and we can only deal with that panic by sealing and dealing with the borders of Europe, not the borders of Britain.”

“Just to give you one example, John, when I was Home Secretary, we opened up the right to work of those countries which came into the European Union in 2004. They were from Eastern Europe. The largest of those was Poland. We said, ‘We want you to work legally and openly and pay tax and National Insurance.’ When we did that, we discovered that 40 per cent, 4-0 per cent, of those who actually registered to work and came out of the sub-economy, were already in the country. They were working and living illegally. So, we can’t delude ourselves, by somehow having the English Channel, or in the case of Donald Trump, building a wall along the border with Mexico, we can suddenly stop the flow of migrants. What we’ve got to do is to work together to have sensible, rational migration policies. And that applies equally, of course, to security as well.”

As you mentioned, you were the British Home Secretary during the time of 9/11. Is that when you realized the importance of cooperation when it comes to going after international terror?

“Yes, back in 1975, and that’s a long time ago now, when we had a vote on whether we should remain in the European Union, we’d only been in there three years, I voted to come out. And the reason I’ve changed my mind, is that the world has changed dramatically [since then]. September [11th] 2001 was one example of the way in which the way that world has changed and every incident that occurs has some knock-on effect as a nation, as a country. This applies to Canada as much as it does to the United Kingdom because of our common language, because of our common means of communication, because of our history, we all work together whatever happens. And actually, that’s not true of the world as a whole. We’re trying to get across to those in Britain that, whilst there are major challenges of rapid change, there are fears subliminal and otherwise of change in people’s faith and their language and their way of leaving, we’ve got to work out a way of dealing with that change in a sensible, thought-through, rational way. And simply putting up barriers, simply trying to pretend that we can stop people moving around the world, trying to pretend that we can deal with security on our own, is frankly nonsense, and that’s the message we’re trying to get across to persuade people within the UK to stay in the European Union, play their part, tackle bureaucracy, work with those of like mind who want a ‘people’s Europe’ instead of a bureaucratic, centralized Europe, and make sense of the world as it really is, rather than the world we’d wish it to be.”

David Blunkett will speak at the Downtown Vancouver campus of University Canada West at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. The Brexit referendum is set for June 23rd.