'Don't Retreat into Communities after Brexit'

Times Higher Education, November 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

'Don't Retreat into Communities after Brexit'


St Mary's v-c reflects on the positive aspects of the UK's being part of Europe. John Elmes writes

The vice-chancellor of St Mary's University, Twickenham has said that the UK has to be very careful not to "retreat into our communities again" in the wake of Brexit.

Francis Campbell, who previously served as former UK prime minister Tony Blair's private secretary for foreign affairs, as well as the UK ambassador to the Holy See, said it was important for the country, especially universities, to maintain "constant openness".

Mr Campbell added that the combined effects of being a student in Belfast during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and subsequently doing a master's degree in European integration at KU Leuven gave him an opportunity to reflect on the positive aspects of being part of Europe, something he says he "benefited so much from".

"I've seen the very powerful, positive effect of Europe in giving the umbrella to the [Northern Ireland] peace process and removing a border," he said. "My [native] home is very close to that border, my family the other side of that border, so this is very real."

He said his decision to go to Belgium and study European integration was "not ad hoc" and followed his experiences as an undergraduate at Queen's University Belfast.

"I was an active member in the Social Democratic and Labour Party. And during my university days, the party leader at that time, John Hume, took that great leap, inspired by the European reconciliation between France and Germany, to reach out to Sinn Féin. That was the start of the peace process."

On Brexit, he said he accepted that a decision to leave had been made by the whole UK, but warned that "we have to be very careful - especially in the part of the country I'm from - that we don't retreat into our communities again". …

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