Laszlo Andor, former commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion for the European Commission, visited Cornell on April 24 to discuss the causes and fallout of the United Kingdom’s 2016 “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union.
Andor, a Hungarian-born economist, outlined what he saw as the major factors that led to Brexit in an informal discussion co-hosted by the ILR school and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.
Andor compared his role in the European Commission to the roles of Hilda Solis and Tom Perez, previous secretaries of labor during Former President Barack Obama’s administration. He also joked about his role in Brexit, referencing his participation in negotiations with the U.K. prior to the referendum.
“In a way, you can draw the quick conclusion that I was responsible for Brexit if you have to name a single person who would need to be exposed,” Andor quipped.
Andor reflected on the causes of Brexit and highlighted that the U.K. had always been somewhat of an outsider in the E.U.
“[The U.K.] always found it hard to fit in the European integration,” he said. “It was always half-hearted, they needed a referendum at the start and they opted out from practically everything that went beyond a single market.”
Other major factors that influenced the Brexit referendum, according to Andor, were freedom of movement within the E.U., the influx of migrants from the Middle East and economic depression.
In addition to outlining the reasons for Brexit, Andor shared his perspective on possible future implications for the E.U.
“[The E.U.] could try to prioritize now specific areas of integration where the British were holding back,” Andor said. “Britain was holding back the social dimension, common defense … but also budgetary issues.”
With Britain out of the E.U., Andor said that “in a way, if Brexit is managed well, in a united platform, the European Union can even capitalize on the Brexit shock.”
Elodie Bethoux, a visiting scholar from France who attended the lecture, said she was very interested to learn about Andor’s experiences and observations on the state of Europe.
“I’ve been working on European issues regarding industrial relations and on social Europe so I was very interested in meeting Laszlo Andor and hearing his experience as a former E.U. commissioner,” she told The Sun.