Europe must get a grip on immigration, Hillary Clinton has warned, to prevent Right-wing populists such as Donald Trump from being elected ever again.
Mrs Clinton praised the compassion towards asylum seekers shown by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. But she said that Right-wing populists were using fears of uncontrolled floods of illegal immigrants to boost their own electoral chances, and said that this was a driving force for Brexit.
“I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame,” she told The Guardian.
“I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message – ‘we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support’ – because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”
Mrs Clinton, who has spent her time since losing the 2016 election writing a book, and is about to embark on a 13-city speaking tour with her husband, said Mr Trump had exploited concerns about immigration during the campaign and in office.
“The use of immigrants as a political device and as a symbol of government gone wrong, of attacks on one’s heritage, one’s identity, one’s national unity has been very much exploited by the current administration here,” she said.
She said that politicians should not resort to attacking the media or their political rivals to further their aims.
In a pointed dig at Mr Trump, she warned against “seeking financial and political help from Russia to support your political parties and movements.”
She added that Brexit – which she described as the biggest act of national economic self-harm in modern history – “was largely about immigration”.
Tony Blair, who was speaking alongside Mrs Clinton and the former Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, as part of a series on centrist politicians, agreed that immigration concerns were paving the way for Right-wing electoral success.
“You’ve got to deal with the legitimate grievances and answer them, which is why today in Europe you cannot possibly stand for election unless you’ve got a strong position on immigration because people are worried about it,” he said.
“You’ve got to answer those problems. If you don’t answer them then … you leave a large space into which the populists can march.”
He added that centrist parties had not yet found a way to counter the arguments of Right-wing populists.
“I don’t think it’s reached its peak,” he said, when asked about the electoral success of populists globally. “I think it will peak, in my view, when the centre ground recovers its mojo and has a strong forward agenda.”
Mrs Clinton said Right-wing populists in the West exploited a desire which was “psychological as much as political” to have easy answers to their concerns.
She said: “They want to be told what to do and where to go and how to live … and only given one version of reality.”