'Brexit': What U.K.'s Vote To Leave Could Mean For EU Countries NPR's Scott Simon speaks with journalist Matt Frei, Europe Editor for Channel 4 News, about the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union and the impact on the continent's political future.
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'Brexit': What U.K.'s Vote To Leave Could Mean For EU Countries

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'Brexit': What U.K.'s Vote To Leave Could Mean For EU Countries

'Brexit': What U.K.'s Vote To Leave Could Mean For EU Countries

'Brexit': What U.K.'s Vote To Leave Could Mean For EU Countries

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/483499761/483499762" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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NPR's Scott Simon speaks with journalist Matt Frei, Europe Editor for Channel 4 News, about the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union and the impact on the continent's political future.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. We continue our coverage of Britain's vote to leave the European Union. We're joined now from London by Matt Frei who's the Europe editor and frequent presenter for "Channel 4 News" in the U.K. Matt, thanks so much for being with us.

MATT FREI: Good morning, Scott. I have to correct you. I'm in Berlin. I've just been to Brussels, and I'm heading back to London.

SIMON: Oh.

FREI: But I'm in the bit of Europe that is still Europe, not in the - not on the island that just decided to sail into the mid-Atlantic (laughter). But I can talk about all of it.

SIMON: I - as you always can, my friend. What does it say that so many elites, if you please - pundits, reporters, opinion leaders, politicians - didn't see this coming?

FREI: That's a very good question. I think because they - because they - maybe I should say we - live in a bubble. I mean, in the last few months, I've been traveling a little bit outside London. But not enough because I like the opinion polls, like most of my colleagues, like even the betting shops, who normally get these things more right than we do in the media - we all thought, rather blithely, that - and wrongly - when we went to bed on Thursday night, that we would remain - that we would not quit the European Union.

But then I checked my short-term memory, and I realized that every time I've been outside London, I have found it very difficult to find a single voice, whether in a farmyard in Herefordshire, in a small town in Northern England or, indeed, in Birmingham, a single voice of whatever age or color that was in favor of staying. And that made me think that I'd completely misread the signs that were very obvious to me. And I was not alone.

SIMON: It's going to be a pretty complicated divorce, isn't it?

FREI: You bet. I've just spent half an hour in a bedroom with the Italian foreign minister, and it's not what you think it is.

SIMON: I didn't think it was anything other than utterly professional.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: But go ahead, Matt.

FREI: Of course, it is.

SIMON: Well, that's even worse somehow, isn't it? All right. Sorry.

FREI: It's even worse. No, no, no. Take care there, Scott. Take care there. But I'll tell you what it was. It was an interesting thing. So there's a wonderful villa on the outskirts of Berlin, right next to Tegel Airport, that was once owned by the Baltic family that built German locomotives in the 19th century, but also invented a very good glue. And this glue legacy re-emerged today in a huddle - a post-mortem huddle - of the six foreign ministers of the six founding nations of the European Union, who got together to try and understand what the hell just happened, to quote Donald Trump, and how you can fix it.

And two things emerged. Number one, the European Union has to reinvent itself to be more relevant to its own people, to prevent the kind of pitchfork anger that has just failed the Cameron administration and got it out of the EU. And secondly, in order to do so, they have to have divorce proceedings that are fast and possibly furious because what they - and I heard this from the Italian foreign minister himself. And the German foreign minister in another bedroom confirmed it to me. The point is that if Britain is allowed to exit from the EU without any jeopardy, without any cost, others might want to do the same.

So we're being made an example of - number one. And number two, if this thing drags on into October, as David Cameron suggested, or possibly even two years, as Boris Johnson, who might be the next prime minister has suggested, it's just far too long for an organization that really fears an excess of uncertainty, a possible contagion of referenda and, indeed, it's very own homegrown right-wing and left-wing populist parties at this very point.

SIMON: In the 20 seconds we have left, is the future of a united Europe at stake?

FREI: Yes. Unless they fix it, you won't have a European Union in five year's time from now. And they know that, and they're quite open about it. And there's only one guy, apart from perhaps Donald Trump, who is cheering this on from the sidelines, and he's called Vladimir Putin.

SIMON: Matt Frei of "Channel 4 News" in the U.K. Thanks so much for being with us, Matt.

FREI: It's a pleasure. Thank you.

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