Jonathan Hill is a former British Conservative Party politician and PR specialist who served as a minister for education under Britain’s coalition government between 2010 and 2015. He was chosen as Britain’s Commissioner to the European Union in 2014, taking on the brief for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union. Originally a euroskeptic, he has now warmed to the E.U. project.
Handelsblatt: Lord Hill, with your hand on your heart: How are you going to vote – Leave or Remain?
Jonathan Hill: I will vote to Remain. It’s true I was never a fervent proponent of European integration. When the introduction of the euro was on the table, I was working in Downing Street for the then Prime Minister John Major. At that time, I opposed Great Britain’s joining the monetary union.
And in Brussels have you altered your opinion of the European Union?
Now I am a part of the Brussels system and can see more clearly the advantages the E.U. brings to Great Britain. Our economy is one of the strongest in the world. That’s not only due to our E.U. membership, but it certainly plays a part. Customs-free access to the single European market of 500 million people has been enormously beneficial to us. E.U. membership also makes sense for Great Britain in terms of security and foreign policy. You don’t gain more influence in the world by withdrawing and concentrating on yourself.
What you are saying doesn’t please many British voters at all. As European Commissioner, don’t you sometimes feel a little lonely in your own country?
I’m touched by your compassion. But during this time, I’ve also experienced many good things in Great Britain. The referendum is forcing people for the first time in a long while to defend the European Union. It’s been an eternity since the E.U.’s advantages for Great Britain have been so clearly laid out.
Our impression has been that the E.U. is being increasingly damned …
It’s true that the Leave campaign has sometimes painted things quite black. Claims are being made that Great Britain will be forced to adopt the euro, that Brussels wants a European army or that Turkey will soon become an E.U. member. Of course, none of that is true. But the debate about these issues offers an opportunity to give fundamental thought to the European Union, and that’s a good thing.
The British author J.K. Rowling has accused Brexit advocates of using Nazi methods. Is that also how you see it?
No. The tone of the campaign has sometimes been shrill. Some methods resemble those of Donald Trump. But one can’t claim that the run-up to the referendum has been boring. All citizens of all age groups are interested in it. Millions who otherwise don’t necessarily do so have registered to vote. I believe this is a good thing.