Today, we begin with disgust over establishment politicians and division among the parties. We're not talking about the U.S. but Europe which is suffering major political chaos as the British exit from the European Union or Brexit looms large. What's it all about? We explain the upheaval and the role the U.S. could play in the success of a newly independent Great Britain.
Anchor: The UK has voted to leave the European Union
Anchor: It is the biggest shock in the history of modern British politics
Nobody predicted the British would vote to exit the European Union.
Reporter: The word you hear over and over again, “stunning, shocking”
Well, almost nobody.
Halligan: I knew that outside of London media circles, an awful lot of people were going to vote for Brexit, and it would be a majority.
Liam Halligan is a columnist for the Telegraph newspaper and author of the book: Clean Brexit. I met him at a journalism conference shortly before the Brexit vote in 2016.
Sharyl: How did you know what almost nobody predicted?
Halligan: Well, I told you those years ago, Sharyl, that the UK would vote for Brexit, which at the time wasn’t obvious because I live outside the M25, the UK's version of the beltway, if you like. What’s amazed me and actually quite shocked me, is the extent to which the political and the media and the business establishment in this country has tried to thwart Brexit.
Millions of voters in the United Kingdom lashed out with a vote in support of Brexit, after Europe’s uncontrolled immigration surge a year before.
Halligan: And they got scared, not because they’re intolerant of immigration, because this is an extremely tolerant country when it comes to immigration. But because it was pressing down on their wages, we hadn’t made the right plans in terms of housing, the health service, schools So the UK wants immigration but it wants it to be planned and it wants a system of controlled immigration like you have in the states, Australia, New Zealand, Canada
Sharyl: If you can in a sentence, why do you think the vote for Brexit, what are people looking for?
Sharyl: But breaking up is hard to do. More than three years after the divorce, the exit is stalled amid efforts to unwind it.. by leaders who never supported it. And many Europeans want to hang on.
Bjoern Janetsky: This could really be a loss for, for Europe and for our common virtues and, or common goals.
The chaos has taken out two prime ministers and cleared the way for the Conservative Party’s Boris Johnson to become Britain’s new prime minister He campaigned on a promise to deliver Brexit.
Johnson: For the purpose in uniting and re-energizing our great United Kingdom, and making this country the greatest place on Earth.
Meantime, the turmoil has also shattered the country’s two major political parties, which are split within themselves over— ‘Should we stay or should we go?’
Cowling: We’ve had the most unprecedented revolt against the entire political class I think in our history.
Political analyst David Cowling is a scholar at Kings College, London University. He describes a dynamic that may sound familiar to Americans.
Cowling: In the immediate aftermath of our 2016 referendum, 17.4 million people voted to leave. And almost immediately people on the other side, people who'd never spoken to any of these people, didn't know their names, didn't know what they looked like, knew nothing about them, felt totally qualified to call them racists, homophobes, misogynists right wingers and the rest of it. And if you do that to people, what did you expect? When did you ever change your mind in favor of somebody who insulted you? It doesn't work in life, doesn't work in politics.
In the big picture, Cowling says voters left and right are disgusted with the establishment and fleeing the two main parties: Conservative and Labor.
Sharyl: As a person who's watched public opinion and politics, what is your overview opinion of what's happening now?
Cowling: Well, I've never seen anything like it. The politics of my lifetime has been dominated by two great monoliths: the Conservative Party and the Labor Party. They are currently desperately trying to get 50% of support in the country. And the opinion polls, it's a disintegration, a collapse, which I never expected to see in my lifetime.
One party outside the “big two” is Britain’s Liberal party. Its spokesman on Brexit is Tom Brake.
Tom Brake: I've been a member of parliament for 22 years and this makes me incredibly angry.
Brake says his Liberal party has gained ground by taking a hard stand against Brexit— something the once-dominant Labor party did not do.
Sharyl: Would you say this is the single biggest issue since you've been involved in politics?
Tom Brake: This is without a doubt the single biggest, most divisive and most damaging issue that we have faced in the United Kingdom. What the governments are trying to do is to deliver something Brexit, which will leave the country poorer and less influential, will damage the opportunities of young people and will make the UK a more isolated place than before. So I'm doing everything I can to block it.
On the other side Mark Francois, a staunchly pro-Brexit parliament leader in the Conservative party.
Sharyl: If you could summarize why you and why those who voted to leave the European Union did so - what is the biggest single reason do you think?
Mark Francois: Basically the British people were fed up of being told how to run their country by somebody else.
Sharyl: There are divisions within the parties. There are exoduses to other choices now. would you say politics is in a major transition?
Mark Francois: There’s definitely a change that's going on because we've had three years since the referendum and we haven't yet left. The people voted to leave, the establishment have tried to stop them, and the people have become more and more angry and frustrated.
The biggest argument against the breakup is fear that Britain’s economy will crash when it’s no longer linked seamlessly to 27 other nations. That’s where the U.S. comes in and it turns out President Trump is on the Brexit train.
Trump: We’re working already on a trade agreement, and I think it will be a very substantial trade agreement you know we can do with the UK we can do 3 to 4 times, we were actually impeded by their relationship with the European Union.
Mark Francois: Well when he made his recent visit to the UK, which I think was, was a success, he basically offered in principle, an early comprehensive free trade deal with the UK. Now President Obama, when he tried to intervene in our referendum, said you know, “get in line.” Well, president Trump seems to think we should go to the front of the line. And that's all right by me.
But anti-Brexit Tom Brake says he’s worried Britain will get the short end of the stick in any trade deal with the U.S.
Brake: Three years ago, people said this was going to be simple. It is proving anything but simple
Some Europeans have other fears beyond Great Britain: that if an exit from the European Union appears beneficial for the breakaway country, it could prompt other nations to follow suit.
Sharyl: Do you think, maybe, if Brexit goes through other countries might follow and break away from Europe?
Christiana: Yes. If it goes through and if it's not too bad for the Britains then maybe.
Jacob: When you look at the election in France, the right, the nationalists were very strong and when they get stronger, they maybe that they would also exit from the Euro.
All of that might be putting the British trolley before the horse.
Sharyl: Up next is an October 31st deadline to make the split from Europe final— or cancel it.
Brake’s liberal party is pushing for a do over vote to stop Brexit.
Sharyl: What is an important, do you think, for an American audience to know about this whole mess?
Tom Brake: what's important for an American audience to know is that the UK is in a difficult position at the moment. And that when politicians make promises that are undeliverable, there are consequences of that so that the UK is now struggling to cope with.
Mark Francois: In the end, in a very British way, we will muddle through and we will drink lots of tea and we will leave the European Union on the 31st of October. We will take back control over our country. We will recover our sovereignty Whatever happens, we will remain the staunchest ally that America has around the globe.
One thing both sides of Brexit agree to.. the end deserves a party. But the pubs can't plan because the politicians can't deliver a date.