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British Columnist Says It's Best The U.K. Leave The E.U.

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British Columnist Says It's Best The U.K. Leave The E.U.

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British Columnist Says It's Best The U.K. Leave The E.U.

British Columnist Says It's Best The U.K. Leave The E.U.

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/467768266/467768267" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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As the United Kingdom prepares for a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union, David Greene talks to British political commentator and columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer.

DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: All right, it is now official - people in Britain will have a chance to decide if they remain in the European Union. That referendum will take place in June. That was announced yesterday by Prime Minister David Cameron. In Parliament though, the prime minister says Britain should stay.

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PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: We are a great country, and whatever choice we make we will still be great. But I believe the choice is between being an even greater Britain inside a reformed EU or a great leap into the unknown.

GREENE: Now, that was Prime Minister David Cameron. The mayor of London made news over the weekend, coming out and saying that Britain should leave the EU. And that was followed by a selloff of the British pound. We have been hearing on this program different views on this. And today, let's get one more view. It comes from Julia Hartley-Brewer. She's a British political commentator and columnist who favors the so-called Brexit, or British exit from the European Union. She joins us on the line from London. Julia, good morning.

JULIA HARTLEY-BREWER: Good morning.

GREENE: All right, so why should Britain leave the European Union?

HARTLEY-BREWER: Well, I think for the same reasons why the United States would never dream of joining that sort of union. As it was back in 1975, long before I was able to vote, we had a vote in this country about whether or not we should join a free - basically a free-trading area with the rest of Europe. And we voted to join in - you know, by a two-thirds to one-third majority. And for some reason, over the last two decades it's changed from being a free-trade agreement to effectively a political union where we've got Brussels, effectively the headquarters of the European Union, basically telling us what laws we can have - telling us who is allowed to come into our country, who can be thrown out, how long people can serve in jail, whether prisoners can vote and even down to what sort of benefits from our welfare state can be paid to foreigners who come to our country. And it's just gone far beyond what people of Britain agreed to and I must say nothing that anyone in the United States would ever agree to. So I think it's time to vote out.

GREENE: But isn't the United States different? I mean, we in the United States are not a European country with all these ties to Europe and these historic relationships. I mean, it has to be a bit of a different case there.

HARTLEY-BREWER: Yes, but constitutionally, of course, the Americans would never be allowed to give away those powers. And that's the issue for many British people like me who are so-called Eurosceptics, which is that there was no - our prime ministers and our Parliament, they have no right to hand over these powers to other countries. And it's not just other countries in Europe having a say over what we do. It's unelected bureaucrats in Brussels on sort of six-figure, huge salaries telling us how we run our country despite having never stood for an election themselves. I'm old-fashioned. I like democracy. I like to be able to throw out my political leaders when they get things wrong, and we don't get to do that with Brussels.

GREENE: So you're not worried at all that this selloff of the pound over the weekend after the mayor of London came out in favor of leaving was sort of a sign of things to come, there could be real economic problems if this goes forward?

HARTLEY-BREWER: Well, the key thing here was that everyone believes that Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, could swing quite a few votes in favor of leave having come out for that. And that makes it more possible that we could vote for leave, and that makes more uncertainty in the markets. And look, the people who run the markets and play - play basically casino gambling with our money don't like uncertainty. It's meaningless. As soon as a vote is done and dusted, everything will be fine. And it's only uncertainty that's the problem, not the actual outcome.

GREENE: And just briefly, I mean, on a cultural, on an emotional level, I mean, isn't there something significant not feeling part of the European family anymore if you go this route?

HARTLEY-BREWER: Well, this is the thing - and the campaign to remain makes this very much about leaving Europe. And as my 9-year-old daughter asked me the other day well, which continent are we going to join? You know, are we going to join Asia or South America?

GREENE: She actually asked you that?

HARTLEY-BREWER: And isn't that - yeah, she asked me that, yes. But look, we all - well, I hope - I hope and pray that we leave the EU, a political body that no longer serves our purposes and acts against our own national interest. But we'll stay part of Europe. I'll still go on holiday to France. I'll still love my French champagne and my - you know, my German sausage and my Italian cheese. It doesn't mean we have to walk away from Europe. It's just walking away from other countries meddling in our national affairs. And the same with - America would never allow any other country to meddle in yours.

GREENE: OK, one more voice in an important debate in Britain over whether Britain should leave the European Union. That's Julia Hartley-Brewer. She's a political columnist and broadcaster. Julia, thanks very much.

HARTLEY-BREWER: Thank you.

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