Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has maintained that immigration is good for Britain, and marked centre versus left and right as the new political battle lines.
Mr Blair, whose premiership saw hundreds of thousands of migrants pour into Britain, named opposition to globalisation as a threat to politics’ centre ground.
The former Prime Minister praised the process for reducing poverty in poor countries but admitted it causes falling living standards in the West.
Interviewed by Politico, Blair said there are “sensible” anxieties about lack of control over immigration but insisted that large numbers of migrants benefit the UK.
The controversial former PM claimed mass migration is “good for a country” as it “brings fresh energy” and “lowers the age of the work force”.
“All the evidence here, for example, in Britain, is that migrants, particularly from the rest of Europe, who come here contribute far more in taxes”, Blair added.
On the topic of the US presidential campaign, Blair said many of the issues in focus mirror those in Europe. He lamented that the centre ground in politics is “under attack” from “populism” and “insurgent movements” from the left and right.
As a result of this, Blair noted common ground between the centre-right and centre-left, stating: “I think the single most important political distinction today is actually between open-minded versus closed-minded, and that’s why I think this crosses the boundaries of traditional — centre-right and centre-left have much more in common with each other right now than the right does with the centre-right, and the left does with the centre-left.”
Blair described this situation as “the inevitable political challenges of globalisation”. He acknowledged that opposition to open borders and free trade will be “incredibly difficult to deal with” but that the “revolution” must go ahead.
The former Prime Minister admitted globalisation hurts living standards in the West but praised the process and his own part in it.
“If you look at the Millennium Development Goals that were set out by the U.N. in the year 2000, which I was a part of formulating, I mean, OK, they’ve not all been met, but many of them have been substantially met. But in the developed world, you’ve then got this flattening of income”, Blair told Politico.
Echoing similar sentiments to former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Blair remarked: “the Donald Trump phenomenon in the U.S. is mirrored completely by the Brexit phenomenon in the U.K.
“It’s very similar forces. And what is interesting to me is there are two different groups that come together, who don’t really agree with each other, but have come together in unity against, if you like, what is perceived as the status quo, or—and certainly what is a more centre-right or centre-left type of politics.”
Research increasingly confirms that while globalisation hurts the middle classes, and unskilled workers in the West, the super-rich benefit immensely from it.
Economist Branko Milanović commented that Western elites “have continually piled up larger and larger gains, all the while socially and mentally separating themselves from fellow citizens.”
Blair’s claim that migrants pay more in taxes than they take out is highly contentious as households with gross annual income of more than £35,000 are net contributors to the UK’s treasury.
Migration Watch calculated that EU migrants cost taxpayers £1 billion in 2014/15 while non-EU migrants strained the country’s finances by an incredible £17 billion that year.