Posted: Sat 25th Jun 2016

Veteran Diplomat’s Warning On EU Debate /
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Jun 25th, 2016

The EU debate does not match up to the scale of such a momentous time in political history, according to one of the UK’s most senior British diplomats, Baron Kerr of Kinlochard. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Lord Kerr was speaking at Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday 16 June as part of the University of South Wales’s Global Choices lecture series, hosted by the University jointly with the English Speaking Union. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

A recording of the lecture is available to view here or by clicking on the below image: ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

LordKerr-lecturescreengrab.width-500 ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Lord Kerr, formerly Britain’s ambassador to the US and to the European Union, argued that neither the Remain nor the Leave campaigns are thinking hard enough about Britain or Europe’s place in the world. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for the good man to do nothing,” he said. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“We are at a crucial moment in national history, and if we reduce our influence, we reduce our country’s power. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“I’m not sure why we would want to walk away from the EU. We initially joined in 1973 for the economic benefits, and since then we have grown faster than the great economies of Europe have. The world is a better place because of the enlargement of the EU, and the British should take some credit for that.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Lord Kerr argued that a vote to leave the EU would mean at least a year of “messy divorce negotiations” before any constructive talks would be held, and that the pressure for another Scottish referendum would grow if the rest of the UK voted out. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“The debate seems to be all about immigration, but more than half of immigrants into this country come from outside the EU,” he said. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“They pay more in tax than they take out in welfare and use of the health service, so are they really a threat to our society? I don’t believe so; they are typically working in crucial jobs for a low wage, for which we should show respect and admiration. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“To leave the EU because of immigration would seem to me to be irrational. We’re an ageing country – we need immigrants.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The University of South Wales is encouraging students and wider society to participate in an informed, facts-based debate, and has provided a platform for informed commentators on both sides of the debate. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Lord Kerr served in the British Diplomatic Service for over 30 years. In the early stages of his career, he held postings in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and HM Treasury, including as Principal Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He later served as British Ambassador to the European Communities from 1990 to 1995 and subsequently as British Ambassador to the US from 1995 to 1997. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

After returning to London, he was appointed Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service until his retirement in 2002. Since then, he has held a wide variety of roles in the public, private and charitable sectors, including chairman of the Centre for European Reform and Deputy Chairman of Scottish Power. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The event also saw the English Speaking Union award a £1,000 prize to English student Matthew Whitton, in recognition of his consistently excellent grades. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Dr Andy Thompson, Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, said: “We’d like to thank the generosity of the English Speaking Union for this incredible prize, which they have bestowed on our students for the second year in a row.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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