Update: We are both signing off for the day. Thank you for all your questions.

Frank arrived in London in June 2016. A week later, Britain voted to leave the European Union. The two of us have been covering developments in this ongoing story ever since. You can find all of Frank’s NPR coverage here. Follow Frank on Twitter and Instagram and Sam on Twitter.

The latest: Prime Minister Theresa May is racing to get a deal for the U.K. to leave the EU without her government turning against her. The European Union OK’d the draft deal, but it faces a hostile U.K. Parliament, where British politicians are united in their hatred for the tentative agreement. May is expected to present the deal to Parliament in mid-December.

Proof: https://twitter.com/NPR/status/1066000373331238912

Comments: 272 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

reverendrambo54 karma

How does the general UK population feel about brexit now that we're several years into negotiations?

npr100 karma

Great question and it depends on the polls you look at. Right after the Brexit vote, there were stories about a "Regrexit," how people regretted voting to leave the EU. I was skeptical about these stories and -- indeed -- polls showed there had been little movement. In recent months, some polls have shown a small reversal with more people supporting staying in the EU than leaving. But that gap still doesn't seem consistently large enough to trigger a complete re-think of Brexit at the parliamentary level.We also found in interviews that the country was even more polarized. One day in Liverpool, we interviewed 80 people and almost everyone had the same opinion and wanted the UK to get on with it. Of course, as we all know, public opinion can sometimes shift quickly and I'm very interested to see where the polls are as we approach the vote in parliament in mid-December. - Frank

criostoirsullivan31 karma

Hi Frank. I think Liverpool voted Remain since it's a university town founded on international trade, but my memory may be wrong, so even if people want to get on with it, they are also just sick of the entire thing.

npr32 karma

I think you're right. when we walked around Liverpool -- and we were well outside downtown -- we found most people are just sick and tired of Brexit and want to get on with it. there is clearly Brexit fatigue in the country. I went to my barbershop in my town in surrey and the barbers and customers -- all hard-core leavers -- just want to move on and weren't following the debate closely at all. - Frank

emcee_gee40 karma

How is Brexit going to affect tourism? I'm American and I loved being able to fly to London and take the train to Paris and back. No worries about visas, etc. Will border crossings still be relatively painless? Will tourism levels in the UK and the EU be relatively stable or will they change significantly as a result of Brexit?

npr65 karma

Good, practical question. As an American, you should continue to enjoy visa-free access to France and many other EU countries (I don't know the exact number). I'm an American also and I'm not concerned about taking the Eurostar to Paris or Brussels. However, it is possible Britons will no longer be able to queue in the EU immigration lines, so they could flow over into non-EU lines which will become longer for everyone. As to tourism levels, let's watch the currencies. If the UK crashes out of the European Union -- which most economists think would cause short-to-medium term economic pain, it could drive down the British pound which would make the UK more attractive to visitors and actually help the UK tourist industry. One thing to remember, if the UK accepts the current withdrawal agreement, there will be a transition period until December 2020 during which things won't change. - Frank

seeasea23 karma

Is there a possibility for anyone to be happy in a realistic brexit scenario?

npr56 karma

Great question. Right now, most members of parliament are unhappy. Some Brexiteers would be happy if the UK crashed out of the EU with no deal, but many others here would be sad because the economic costs could be heavy in terms lost GDP, lost jobs, inflation etc. I will say this: in the lead up to the 2016 referendum, the country did not have a sophisticated, honest policy debate about just what Brexit could mean to the UK and the trade offs different choices would entail. That is a big reason why the United Kingdom now finds itself in a very unhappy position with so many people and politicians not liking the options going forward. - Frank

FantasiainFminor22 karma

If it goes down to defeat in the Parliament, do you think there's any prospect for the government saying let's call the whole thing off? Because no-one wants a hard Brexit.

npr49 karma

That seems a long shot right now, because a lot of Britons voted to leave the EU. it is possible there could be a second referendum, but people -- including those who voted to remain -- have argued it would be anti-democratic. sort of like saying, "Hey, we didn't like the way that vote went, let's have a do-over." One thing I would emphasize is that the United Kingdom is in completely uncharted territory now politically and practically anything is possible. - Frank

showmm18 karma

Can you give a short summary of what the current state is with Brexit? What are the main points on the table currently? Who is arguing for and against it? What’s the likelihood anything will actually happen?

Brexit has been in the news so long I’ve actually stopped paying attention to it as it all seems futile as a bystander to even try to keep up.

npr35 karma

I don't blame you. It is complex and the language politicians use is opaque. Long story short: the British parliament is expected to vote next month on a withdrawal agreement from the EU that could actually keep the UK in the EU for years. I know that sounds upside down, but welcome to Brexit. the reason is this: leaving the EU will create the need for a customs border on the island of Ireland, which a lot of people there would hate because right now it's open and peaceful. the way it's set up, the UK couldn't actually pull away from the EU until it solves the border issue. The result is that most members of parliament are going to vote against Brexit. The Leavers hate the deal because it could trap the UK inside the EU for years. Remainers don't like it because it's worse deal than what the UK currently has, membership in the EU and the ability to influence EU law. At the moment, it seems parliament is posed to kill the deal in mid-December which could create chaos. The prime minister could resign (which seems unlikely at the moment, doesn't strike most people as a quitter) or the UK could crash out of the EU with no deal or there could be a general election (that would be exhausting and the UK has already had two national votes in the past three years) or there could be even another Brexit referendum. What will happen? As the late screenwriter William Goldman wrote about Hollywood in "Adventures in the Screen Trade," "nobody knows anything." - Frank

SirRatcha16 karma

How seriously is the current government taking the difficulties of closing the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland if Brexit happens? Is there genuine consideration being given to making the border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK instead? What will the Democratic Unionist Party, which the Conservative Party relies on for its coalition majority, support and what will they reject?

npr24 karma

I think they are taking it seriously now, but what i found striking in the lead up to the 2016 referendum was how little anyone talked about the Irish border, which was obviously going to be a big problem. Brexiteers like to say this can all be solved with technology. That technology, though, doesn't actually exist and when I spoke to a professor in Belfast last year, she said the talk of easy technological solutions were totally unrealistic. As has been stated many times before, no one wants a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and the DUP, understandably, thinks a border down the Irish Sea separates it in some ways from the rest of the United Kingdom. That's something the DUP can't abide, nor could any British prime minister because, as Theresa May says, an internal customs border would impinge on the sovereignty of the UK. imagine a customs border between Arizona and California. There is no easy answer to the Irish border conundrum and the withdrawal agreement that goes to parliament next month effectively acknowledges that and kicks the can down the road. - Frank

vlwor16 karma

Are there any lawmakers pushing for a second referendum for brexit?

npr29 karma

There are! Several British lawmakers - what we call an MP or Member of Parliament - support this position. Earlier this month Jo Johnson, a government minister, resigned from Theresa May's government and called for a second referendum. British newspapers have reported at least 8 other MPs in the Conservative party who have supported another vote. MPs in the Labour party have also called for a second referendum - often called a People's vote - including members of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn's shadow front bench team. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said, however, that there will be no second referendum while she is in charge. - Sam

5coolest11 karma

How hard would it be for the UK to rejoin the EU down the road if it so chooses? Is the answer different if the UK completely leaves the trade block?

P.S. Huge fan, Frank! I listen to your reports pretty much daily on ATC while driving home :)

npr24 karma

Thanks for the shout-out. Good question and a hard one. Britain has long been divided over membership in the European Union and history suggests that if the UK goes through with Brexit, it would take a generation before it would be likely to ask to rejoin. A generation is an eternity in politics, so it's hard to know what the EU would look like then and what's its attitude towards the UK might be. Throughout this process, EU leaders have made it clear -- especially last weekend in Brussels -- that they are very sad to see the UK leave. how they will feel many years from now, who knows? - Frank

Pahoalili7 karma

What do you think the Queen’s opinion is?

npr24 karma

We have no idea. The Queen is the head of state, but apolitical. However, there has been speculation over the past couple of years as to where her sentiments lie. Please check out this BBC story, which analyzes the design of the hat she wore at the opening of parliament in June, 2017 and see what you think. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-40356113. - Frank

nuevenine996 karma

would you mind explaining what the heck a 'backstop' is?

npr16 karma

Good question! The backstop is a kind of insurance policy, or safety net, to help avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. If there is no agreement on appropriate customs arrangements between the EU and the UK by December 2020 then the backstop would come in to force. What that means is, if no agreement has been reached in time, the EU and the UK agree that Northern Ireland would stay in the EU wide single market for goods and the customs union. This would avoid regulatory difference between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland - part of the UK - and therefore avoid the need for customs and border posts. - Sam

cvmvrgo5 karma

I was reading a report that said the EU supports the draft Brexit deal, in what ways does the EU benefit from this deal?

npr9 karma

Economically, the EU is moving from a position where the UK - one of it's largest economies - is moving from being within it's economic block to a position where the UK is a little or a lot further away - depending on the the kind of deal we end up with. That means less frictionless trade, which trade experts never like. However, politically the EU has shown that it is able to act with unity. We should remember that there was talk of a Frexit (France leaving), a Nexit (Netherlands), and a growing worry of anti-EU populist governments popping up around Europe. So far, the EU has been able to show that it is able to act to defend it's interests together, allaying the fears of some that disunity would grip the bloc. - Sam

thehoodedclawz5 karma

Do you think May will get the agreement past parliment? It currently seems like it will be incredibly difficult to get the agreement approved, with the DUP, Labour and many Tory MPs saying they'll vote against. What do you think will be the next steps either way?

npr10 karma

If the vote were taken today, most people think parliament would kill the deal. if it fails in mid-December, May will have the choice to resign (which would be normal in British politics but normal no longer applies here) or bring it back for a second vote. Watch the markets, watch the UK business community if the bill fails. If the parties kill a deal with no other viable alternative, how will the public respond? What will be the potential political costs, especially to the Conservative Party? these are big stakes and it's entirely unclear how this shakes out. - Frank

ductapedog2 karma

Hi Frank and Sam. Is there any scenario in which Britain would somehow continue to remain in the EU? If they fail to approve the current agreement or even have another referendum and "change their minds?

npr4 karma

There isn't really an easy answer to this! The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that the UK will leave the European Union on the 29th of March 2019. She has also repeatedly ruled out holding a second referendum. So that seems pretty clear. But what if she can't get enough support for her deal? She has says that means leaving with no deal. But she has also started to say that it could risk no Brexit at all. What could she mean? Well, some have been campaigning for another vote - or a so-called people's vote - for a while. Now, The Scottish National Party say they would support a second vote. The Labour party says it could be an option but they would prefer a general election. If Labour were to decide to back it, and other opposition parties supported it too, as well as a few Conservative rebels, it's possible that the idea could have a majority in parliament. But then MPs would have to force the government to hold a second referendum, which would mean getting legislation through parliament, which could take weeks and not be ready in time before the UK leaves the EU. Campaigners for a second referendum - which includes former Prime Ministers - still hold out hope and continue to campaign on the issue but a lot would have to happen to get to a second vote! - Sam

ryanlindbergo2 karma

First of all, thank you so much for what you all do. I listen to NPR every morning during my daily commute and it helps me get through that ordeal with my sanity.

How does this all pan out for British possessions like Northern Ireland and Gibraltar? I know that both areas votes very heavily to stay.

Also I noticed that the UK and Spain have made some kind of agreement concerning Gibraltar. Could you explain what that means for Britain?

npr5 karma

Gibraltar is a British Oversees Territory. It's people are British citizens but it pretty much runs its own affairs. In two relatively recent referendums - in 1968 and 2002 - the people of Gibraltar voted to stay part of the UK. However, in the EU referendum, people voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU. The Spanish want more of a say over Gibraltar - they are concerned their ties with the rock will be hurt when Britain leaves the EU. It's a tricky issue and the recent threat from the Spanish to frustrate Brexit unless there is clarity over Gibraltar's status really shows us how difficult future trade negotiations are going to be. Like the French and fishing rights, the status of Gibraltar is an important domestic political issue in Spain - and no leader wants to look like they are losing. It's hard to say how it will pan out but you can expect a lot of political drama as leaders make clear they are defending their nations interests! Whether that translates in to policy and the future agreement, we will have to wait and see. - Sam

SirRatcha2 karma

While the government stance is that there can't be a second referendum, I've seen a lot of reports indicating widespread popular support for a second referendum. As I understand it, publicly the EU position is that the UK already made its bed and it better lie in it*, but do you have any sense that behind the scenes the EU might be more supportive of a new vote?

*Sneaky song lyric reference: Upvote to anyone who identifies the song and artist.

npr10 karma

I think the reports are exaggerated. Sam and I have been looking at the polls closely and have even entertained doing a "regrexit" story, but we haven't found the empirical or anecdotal evidence to support it. Let's see what happens in the coming weeks. If parliament can't agree on a deal and it looks like the UK could crash out of the EU, that might shift the polls on whether to stay. still too early to say. I can't speak for the EU, but on many occasions EU leaders say they want the UK to stay and the words this weekend were those of profound sadness at losing an important and economic partner. There was no crowing, no schadenfreude. I suspect if the UK changed its mind, the EU would be willing to listen as long as it was well before the March 29th, 2019 leave date. - Frank

spasticpoodle1 karma

Do you feel that a successful exit of Britain from the EU will have lasting repercussions for the EU? In other words, depending on how Britain does in the first few post-EU years, do you think that other countries will choose to leave as well? Is there a feeling among other countries that they were promised something that they have not received?

Furthermore, do you think that a successful Brexit could result in a unification of Ireland and the independence of Scotland?

Finally, I have heard theories that a lot of the nationalistic views across the world have been stoked by Russian agitators. Is there evidence that this is the case? If so, what do you think the end-goal is?

npr1 karma

Good question. I think European nations and economists and journalists will be watching the UK economy very closely in the years following Brexit. Do the doomsday scenarios pan out? Or does the UK actually prosper as the Brexiteers have promised. The results could influence thinking on the continent about whether to stay in or go it alone. Economists I've spoken with say the lost GDP and the rising inflation may occur over many, many years and not be that noticeable to the average Briton, even though most economists expect Brexit to make the UK poorer. If the UK bombs out of the EU, there is expected to be much more visible short-to-medium-term economic pain and many in the EU would probably view that as a very cautionary tale. - Frank

dualgenre1 karma

I'm American, and I am up for a job in London that is willing to sponsor me. Will Brexit affect my work visa in any way, and is there anything that I should take into consideration before deciding on the job offer?

npr3 karma

Good, practical question. Since this is about the EU, I don't think so, but you should be certain to reach out to a visa consultant. always get independent analysis on visa status in times of uncertainty regarding immigration. Good luck. London is a great city! - Frank