Bracing for Brexit


NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up: Brexit, finally.

Three years after voters in Britain opted to leave the European Union, it appears it is going to happen at last. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party won a decisive victory in last week’s election in the UK.

He campaigned on a promise to get Brexit done by the end of January. And voters gave him the majority he needed to make it so.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Joining us now to talk about it is professor Glen Duerr. He teaches international studies at Cedarville University in Ohio. Good morning!

GLEN DUERR, GUEST: Good morning!

REICHARD: Going into last week’s election, it was not at all clear what the outcome would be. Since that first Brexit referendum in 2016, U.K. voters and lawmakers have been deadlocked over this issue. Why do you think Boris Johnson won such a decisive victory now?

DUERR: I think two reasons. One was really a fatigue with the whole Brexit process as you mentioned it’s been over three years, approaching three and a half years. And so with Johnson coming to the floor as one of the most prominent Brexiteers, a lot of people—especially conservatives—rallied behind him.

The second big point, too, was he faced—Johnson, that is—faced Jeremy Corbin, probably the British version of Bernie Sanders, as a main opponent for the Labour Party. And there are a number of Labour, typically, areas—especially in the north of England—that also wanted Brexit and many of those voters left and supported Johnson. So I think a combination of those two factors together helped get him to 365 seats, a solid majority, in the 650 member House of Commons in the U.K.

REICHARD: Speculation was rampant over what Brexit might mean for the European Union after the first go-round. That sort of got shelved when it wasn’t certain that Britain would actually leave the EU. Now that all doubt is gone, what effect do you think this might have on the European Union overall?

DUERR: Well, hopefully it leads to reform. Because I think a lot of people in the U.K. as well, even though they might have voted for Brexit, are looking at this and thinking the EU is overly bureaucratic, it’s largely unelected, it’s got a lot of power over the lives of everyday people. But at the same time, it’s prevented a World War III, there’s a proliferation of trade across the continent, people tend to like one another, and so maintaining some level of trade, a solid European intergovernmental organization is good. It just needs to really change. And so maybe Brexit is the catalyst for all of this. But it still has to get done and it’s going to take awhile to get through the minutia of what exactly will be needed to do Brexit.

REICHARD: This decision obviously affects Great Britain and other European countries the most. But they’re all strong U.S. allies. And so Brexit will have ripple effects across the pond. How might this change U.S. policy in that region, especially when it comes to trade?

DUERR: Well, the big opening for the United States is now the U.K. and the U.S. can sign a free trade agreement. Under the European Union, no member state is allowed to sign an individual bilateral trade agreement with any country, including the United States. And so this is a big opportunity for the United States. The U.K. is the sixth largest economy in the world, a significant bilateral trade. And Prime Minister Johnson and President Trump like each other a lot. And so there is an opening for the United States.

REICHARD: It seems like everything is global these days, even local politics. One post-election report I heard last week said Democratic strategists would be analyzing the Labour Party’s loss for insight into possible trends in our 20-20 presidential election. Is that too much of a stretch, do you think? Or are there parallels?

DUERR: I think there are parallels absolutely, because if we go back to June of 2016 with the Brexit vote, it was a foreshadowing of President Trump’s victory in November of 2016. If we simply compare the state of Michigan with significant parts of northern England, they’re very, very similar. And you can paint a pretty similar situation in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, in Ohio, states like that in the midwest that ultimately led to the Trump victory. And so … the Democrats will be very well-advised to look at the pitfalls of the Corbin campaign and to take real notes. I mean, and in some ways, if you look at candidates like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, if they stay on their current messaging, they could face a Corbin-like loss if they end up being the Democratic nominee. It might open the door to a more moderate candidate—Joe Biden, for example, potentially Pete Buttigieg, and even Mike Bloomberg—to come from the middle and provide a better contest against President Trump.

REICHARD: Professor Glen Duerr teaches international studies at Cedarville University in Ohio. Thanks for joining us today.

DUERR: Thank you for having me.


(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) A pro-Brexit supporter wears badges as he demonstrates outside Parliament in London, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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