US and Europe should join tech forces to counter China – Tony Blair

Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager also speaks at Web Summit in Lisbon

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the digital world can no longer escape the rules that apply to our lives offline. Photograph: David Fitzgerald

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the digital world can no longer escape the rules that apply to our lives offline. Photograph: David Fitzgerald

 

European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager says regulators are close to wrapping up their third case against Google over its AdSense advertising service.

Ms Vestager, speaking at Web Summit on Wednesday, said the digital world can no longer escape the rules that apply to our lives offline.

“The innovation we need isn’t about getting round the rules. Innovation matters because it makes our lives better,” she said.

“Digital technology has immense power to do good. But technology that powerful is bound to create risks as well. And it’s not an attack on technology to acknowledge that those risks are real,” added Ms Vestager.

Earlier in the day former UK prime minister Tony Blair said the US and Europe should look past their differences and form a united front on technology to offset the rise of China.

Mr Blair also reiterated his objection to Brexit and called for a second referendum to be held in the UK.

“I am 100 per cent against it . . . and up to the very end I am going to do everything I can to stop it,” he said, to cheers from the audience.

Of course, technology companies should pay their taxes properly

Mr Blair said a second referendum was needed on whether to remain in the EU or not because otherwise people would face either a “pointless” or a “painful” version of Brexit.

The former leader, who again ruled out a return to party politics, also said a stronger system of regulation is required for tech giants such as Facebook and Google.

“Of course, technology companies should pay their taxes properly,” he added.

However, Mr Blair also voiced concerns about a rising tech backlash. He said technology is central to debates the world is currently having, as “it can show people an optimistic way to the future”.

Mr Blair also warned of the rise of China as a technology player, particularly in the artificial intelligence (AI) space. He said there was a strong case for a transatlantic alliance to counter “an aggressive and big push” by China in the tech space.