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British Prime Minister Announces How The U.K. Will Depart The EU


So there was that Brexit vote back in June, but only now, months later, are we learning exactly what that vote means. British Prime Minister Theresa May this morning has laid out her plans for Britain's exit from the European Union. She signalled this would be a clean break.


PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: We seek a new and equal partnership between an independent self-governing global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave.

GREENE: We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership, all that membership will go away, the prime minister says. Let's hear more now from NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Frank, good morning.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey, good morning, David.

GREENE: So not holding on to any bits of membership. Well, what are the key points in this speech? It sounds like it really is a clean break.

LANGFITT: It is a clean break, and this is what we've been talking about for months now is a hard Brexit. The idea is that the U.K. is going to leave the single EU market. That means walking away from half a billion consumers. It's a huge step. The other key point she made was the United Kingdom's going to take control of its borders again. It's not going allow all these people from the EU to just come in here. And the idea there is that people really wanted here in the United Kingdom to see a limit in immigration. The government - this is also very interesting - she did say that the government is going to put a final result of Brexit negotiations to a vote of the Houses of Parliament. So there will be a Democratic response to all of this and that later they'll try to strike a free trade deal with the EU and try to get the best deal they can for access for, you know, car manufacturers here, people like that.

GREENE: So is this - I mean, is a divorce a fair analogy here? Like there was some wiggle room, right? I mean, the prime minister couldn't have...

LANGFITT: Yeah, I...

GREENE: ...So done a separation but still being married. This sounds like a divorce. I mean, this is the real thing.

LANGFITT: It is a divorce. And what you have is a case where there were some people here who were very worried about the impact this was going to have on the United Kingdom economy. They wanted to have special deals for certain sectors, and what she's saying for now is we're out. And a reason that she's doing that is that vote back in June, a lot of people here voted about immigration. It's what really bothered them. They felt it was affecting the national identity, and they felt in some small - smaller communities, they felt they were being flooded. And what she's saying is this is it. We're out. What's going to be fascinating is to see what the response is in Europe and the kind of deal during the Brexit negotiations, how it plays out.

GREENE: You know, there are broader implications to talk about here, right? I mean, in the West, we see this rise in populism in different countries, concern about immigration, concern about globalization. What are we expecting?

LANGFITT: Well, it really does track into so much of what we heard frankly in the presidential election in the United States, a concern about immigration, the impact of globalization, taking back sort of a sense of - certainly in the United Kingdom there's been a lot of talk about taking back sovereignty in terms of all the EU laws that have an impact here in the United Kingdom. And so you definitely see a big connection there. Also in Western Europe, we have elections coming up there very soon in France, in Berlin and in Germany. And you're going to see a lot of the same issues coming up in terms of control of borders, things along those lines.

GREENE: OK, so this speech from the prime minister of Britain, just sort of one piece of a larger puzzle. That's NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Frank, thanks as always.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, David Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.