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'Brexit' Vote Looms As Sides Squabble Over Whether To Leave EU


The British will vote next month on whether to exit the European Union, and the debate over what's known as Brexit is quite vigorous. Here's Boris Johnson, a one-time high-profile mayor of London who's now a member of Parliament responding to questions from another MP. Johnson is an outspoken proponent of Britain leaving the EU because he says it over-regulates commerce.


BORIS JOHNSON: The European Commission's own website says that adult supervision is required in the case of the use of uninflated balloons by children under 8. And I have to say, in my household, I more or less ban only children under 8 around blowing balloons in my household. I do think that it is absolutely ludicrous to have this kind of prescription set up...


JOHNSON: ...At a European level.

MONTAGNE: On the other side, officials like Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, warned that a Brexit will bring chaos.


DONALD TUSK: The EU may be blamed for many things, but it still remains the most effective firewall against the ever dangerous and often tragic conflict among the nations of Europe.

MONTAGNE: Britain's ambassador to the U.S. is Sir Kim Darroch. He spoke with us yesterday in the last hours before British civil servants must go dark and stop speaking publicly about the vote. Welcome.

KIM DARROCH: Thank you very much. It's good to be with you.

MONTAGNE: Begin for us with a bit of an explanation, if you don't mind, why the U.K. should stay in the European Union, which is, of course, the official position of your government.

DARROCH: Look. The choice in this referendum on 23 June is a choice between economic security and global influence as part of the European Union or a leap in the dark. A vote to stay is a vote for certainty.

We'll be stronger, safer and better off in Europe. We'll get to keep access to the single market of 500 million people. We'll have a say over the rules of doing business across Europe. It means more jobs, lower prices and more financial security for British families. A vote to leave would be a vote for risk, so the case for remain is extremely strong. It's overwhelming.

MONTAGNE: And if, though, the case is so overwhelming, how does it happen that there's quite a sizable percentage of voters who've said in polls that they're going to vote for Brexit?

DARROCH: Well, we'll see on the 23 of June what the view of the British people is. And you know, polls don't have the best record in the U.K., at least in recent years.

MONTAGNE: Well, let me put something to you. This month, Boris Johnson, a member of the British Parliament, a very powerful and well-known politician there, said this. And I'm quoting him. "It is absolutely crazy that the EU is telling us how powerful our vacuum cleaners have got to be, what shape our bananas have got to be and all that kind of thing" - you know, went on to say it's costing U.K. businesses about 600 million pounds a week in unnecessary regulation. These are pretty strong statements in favor, say, of leaving the EU. How true are they?

DARROCH: Well, the reality is if you want to be part of a single market, then there has to be a common set of rules and regulations governing how you trade so the consumers across that single market, across Europe, are confident in the quality of products they're buying or the services they're buying.

Now, there is a case that it may be possible to simplify some of the regulatory framework if there are unnecessary costs on business. This is something that the British government has pushed for several years in the European Union and is making some progress. And we will hope to be able to continue to push that policy.

MONTAGNE: Given that Brexit is favored by a lot of voters, are there concerns that your government is sympathetic to?

DARROCH: We think that there needs to be a greater focus in the European Union on generating economic growth, and way to do that is completing the single market in digital services and doing more and better international trade deals and in looking at the burden of regulation on businesses to see if that can be reduced.

So those are all things that we would like to see the European Union focus more on in future. But we are convinced that we are stronger, safer and better off inside the European Union. And that's, you know, the basis of the case the British government is making with the British people.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much for joining us.

DARROCH: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Sir Kim Darroch is the British ambassador to the United States. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.