What Happens With Brexit Now That Prime Minister May Has Survived No Confidence Vote
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament today - barely.
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UNIDENTIFIED MP: The ayes to the right, 306 - the noes to the left, 325.
KELLY: That means Brexit remains Theresa May's problem to solve. And it is quite a problem. Yesterday, lawmakers voted down her plan for exiting the European Union by an astounding margin. She has until Monday to come up with a plan B. Of course, lots of people are weighing in on what should happen now, and our next guest is one of them. Paul Mason is a writer and a journalist, formerly with the BBC and Britain's Channel 4. He left so he could speak out in support of the opposition Labour Party.
Paul Mason, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
PAUL MASON: Great to be on the show.
KELLY: So start with that basic question. What path do you see out of this mess?
MASON: Well, ultimately, there has to be a deal. And either we postpone the deadline, which is 29 of March - which I think we will - there has to be a deal. Otherwise, Britain crashes out of this major trading and political relationship. And you know, the aircraft stop taking off from the from the airports. It's as simple as that. And the trucks line up at the major ports. There'll be chaos.
So there has to be some solution to it. The impasse we're in is that the government can't get its solution through, and that is the solution that has been negotiated with Europe. So any starting again doesn't just involve British politics. It involves European politics, and the clock is ticking.
KELLY: Right. Now let me pick up on something you mentioned there, which is the possibility of delaying. As you said, March 29 is when Britain is supposed to be leaving the EU. But I noticed The Times of London was reporting today that officials in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe are looking at how might this work, just to put off Brexit by, say, a year and let you guys figure it out.
MASON: Yeah. I mean, I think Theresa May, the prime minister, is even now, in some way I think, banking on that - banking on this pressure on her own MPs. You see, what happened yesterday is they massively deserted her. They hate the deal. They think it makes Britain into what they call a vassal state. It's like Trump leaving NAFTA but agreeing to obey the rules of NAFTA so that Mexico and China set America's trade rules. That's almost exactly what it is.
And of course, the right - so the Conservatives hate it. But she did the deal. So you know, we're in an impasse. Many of us on the left of British politics want the impasse to be broken by scrapping the whole idea of Brexit. And that is possible. A supreme court case in Europe says it's entirely possible for Britain to say we don't want to do it. We'll stay in with all our old privileges and all our old arrangements. But to do that, we're going to need another referendum.
KELLY: You brought Trump into this, so let me stay...
KELLY: ...On that path for a moment. I noticed you wrote a piece for The New Statesman in which you argue that what's playing out in the U.K. is kind of the same culture war as what's playing out in the U.S. How so? And what parallels do you see?
MASON: Well, Brexit was a proposal to leave a major trading bloc. And the primary driver of the vote among poor, working-class communities was their opposition to migration - in this case white, Christian migration from Eastern Europe. Now, many of the same themes were played into that. And of course, we know some of the same money - you know, some of the Russian opaque money was in the U.K.'s political system, the same Facebook manipulation...
KELLY: You're talking about questions about Russian influence.
MASON: Yeah, et cetera - and directly. The American right was, we know, fine. You know, Cambridge Analytica - you know, the sub-company partially owned by Robert Mercer, was involved. So look; the same team that did Trump did Brexit. Note - however, Brexit...
KELLY: You're saying that literally - like...
KELLY: ...Steve Bannon, Nigel Farage, those types?
MASON: Well, Nigel Farage, of course, was the leader of the Brexit campaign. And the first thing - you know, when Trump comes to power, Farage is straight over there.
MASON: There are interlinkages, of course, between the Trump campaign, the Russian oligarchs and Brexit. But some of it, of course, is still the subject of the Mueller inquiry. Some of it here is the subject of - we don't have a Mueller-style legal system, unfortunately. But...
KELLY: No. Paul Mason, I'm so sorry because you're leading me down a fascinating path. But we need to leave it there. That is journalist...
KELLY: ...And writer Paul Mason.
MASON: Of course.
KELLY: He writes a weekly column for The New Statesman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.