Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Our transmitter in Willow Creek is off air. We're working with the manufacturer on a solution. We apologize for the inconvenience.

British People React To United Kingdom's Vote To Brexit


Yesterday, British voters chose to leave the European Union, and, Robert, let's talk about some of the reactions to that result.


Well, Ari, one instant reaction came from David Cameron, the prime minister. Cameron had called this referendum to really settle the question within the Conservative Party of whether it should be pro-EU or anti-EU. He was very much in favor of remaining. He lost, and so he came out and made this statement using this nautical metaphor to announce that he's stepping down.


DAVID CAMERON: I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months. But I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.

SIEGEL: He says they'll be a new captain by about October. He also, by the way, Ari, said that he will not instantly invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which starts this two-year clock ticking. That's different from what he had said during the campaign.

SHAPIRO: Well, I saw a comment today that said it is a rare day when the prime minister of the U.K. stepping down is not the biggest headline (laughter), so...

SIEGEL: Exactly.

SHAPIRO: What else is going on?

SIEGEL: Well, one of them is in the Labour Party. You know, the Labour strongholds in the north of England voted heavily to leave the EU. The leadership of the Labour Party was strongly campaigning to remain. Labour has some problems. Interestingly in Scotland, the vote was very heavily in favor of remaining.

And the head of the Scottish National Party and the Scotland Chief Minister Nicola Sturgeon reminded people that two years ago when the Scots voted against independence, they did so assuming that being in the U.K. meant being in the EU. So she said this today.


NICOLA STURGEON: So there is no doubt that yesterday's result represents a significant and a material change of the circumstances in which Scotland voted against independence in 2014.

SIEGEL: In other words, think about another referendum.

SHAPIRO: And elsewhere in the program we're going to hear more about the future of the United Kingdom. But Robert, what have you heard from the voters who cast these decisive votes last night?

SIEGEL: I've heard a lot of division. I'd say this is a moment of sharp contrasts in the U.K., contrasts as we've heard between the English and the Scots, but also between Londoners and people in the rest of England and between young voters and old voters, also between despondent supporters of the EU and, say, this crowd in the Four Candles brewpub in the town of Broadstairs in Kent on the English Channel.

MARTIN TAYLOR-SMITH: All right, guys. They want to know what your reaction was to yesterday.




SIEGEL: So it wasn't unanimous, but that was Martin Taylor-Smith leading the crew at his favorite local pub. He was the Leave campaign activist I met earlier this week, and he told me that his reaction to the vote was simply euphoric.

TAYLOR-SMITH: We're going to be in the driving seat with a lot more - without people who haven't got the same interests as us telling us what we need to do. And that's the problem when you've got a committee of 28 trying to decide what you're going to do. And they range from countries as small as Cyprus and Malta. At the end of the day, their interests are different to ours.

SIEGEL: Martin Taylor-Smith fits the profile of a Brexit supporter. He's an older conservative voter from a rural area. Hakim Jamal Horton defies all profile, and he is a young multiracial soon-to-be university graduate who studied languages in Europe. And this week after much indecision, he voted for Britain to leave Europe yesterday, and then he went home and watched the returns.

HAKIM JAMAL HORTON: I was out quite late to around 3 am, and then I fell asleep, waking up to so many text messages from friends and BBC updates. It was really shocking, though, just to see not just the result but the hostility from a lot of my own friends and family.

SIEGEL: Hakim told me that he's been stunned by the critical Facebook posts he's seen, and he read some of them to me.

HORTON: Beyond infuriated, I cannot believe this country who has time and time again made decisions that will be regretted for generations to come - seriously worried for what's to come. Those who voted leave, you're idiots. Enjoy your little, old, independent England that will be weaker than it's ever been before. I'm getting out of here as quick as I can before the pound to the dollar drops even more.

There's one really interesting one I want to show you from a British-Pakistani I know who's living in the States at the moment. Huge day for Britain. You Brexit supporters are no better than Trump supporters.

SIEGEL: That one puzzles and angers Hakim because he sees the Brexit as a leftist action of protest by voters who feel abandoned by the elites and who wanted to fight back.

HORTON: And that's what British people have done today. The working class is showing - not just the working class, but a lot of people have shown dissatisfaction with the establishment and the way things are going. And they've spoken up.

SIEGEL: One common reading of last night's results is that British elites clustered in prosperous pro-European London are out of sync with the rest of the country. And by that reading, the place most out of sync would be the city of London, Britain's financial district and at least for now Europe's financial district. When I was there this morning, one well-tailored financial-type in a hurry probably summed up the majority sentiment. He ran past me saying I don't want to talk about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: I don't want to talk about it. It's too terrifying.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: It's too terrifying. But Kevin Franklin talked about it. His field is assessing and analyzing global risk. His assessment of the U.K. is it's divided.

KEVIN FRANKLIN: I looked at the results this morning going around to different boroughs of London, and all of the areas that I know and all the people that I speak to were like 60, 70 percent remain. But then you look outside of London and actually so many people are voting to leave. And that really just reflects actually our lack of understanding of what the rest of the country's thinking.

SIEGEL: And Ian Watt, who works as a consultant to developing countries, was on his way to the shops that now occupy the old Royal Exchange building in the city. He's affected by another great division underscored in yesterday's referendum returns. He's a Scotsman.

IAN WATTS: There was a unanimous vote in favor of remain in Scotland. Every single council voted remain. So that is going to provoke another debate, and I don't think Scotland needs this to be honest with you.

SIEGEL: Mr. Watts says he's disappointed with the outcome of yesterday's vote. The U.K.'s position in the European Union is problematic, he admits, but he says it's not unsolvable.

WATTS: We could have dealt with this because I think Brussels is a problem and will remain a problem. And sadly, we're going to have to find our own way, and we'll do it. We're British. We'll do it.

SIEGEL: But to do it, they'll have to overcome some of the divisions that were so plainly on display in yesterday's referendum.


That's our co-host Robert Siegel reporting from London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.