Lisa Owen interviews Gerri Peev
On The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Gerri Peev and Patrick Gower interviews Alastair Campbell
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Patrick Gower talks to former spin doctor Alastair Campbell and Lisa Owen interviews NZ-raised Daily Mail political correspondent Gerri Peev about Brexit and its implications
Paddy Gower: Now, turning to the Brexit. It is rattling the global economy this weekend, and it has left the world wondering what next for Great Britain.
Lisa Owen: The UK is leaving the EU. David Cameron's resigned and Boris Johnson is circling.
Gower: We will hear what Tony Blair's former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, makes of all of this shortly.
Owen: But a few hours ago, I spoke to Gerri Peev, a Kiwi-raised political correspondent at The Daily Mail, and asked if anyone really saw this coming.
Gerri Peev: Well, once again the experts and the pollsters all got it wrong, and you could say that this feeds into the final result. It was a result against the Establishment. Just like the general election last year in Britain, everyone thought that 'remain' would perhaps sneak it, but at the end of the day, that's not what's happened. So we're all in shock and slightly reeling here.
So who did vote you out and what did it come down to in the end?
Well, it came down to the fact that many people, particularly those outside London, haven't really felt that European dividend. They haven't felt like they've benefitted from EU membership. Also, there was a very strong anti-establishment vote and a rejection of all the experts, all the government ministers, all the political leaders from across most parties who came to tell them that this is the way that they should vote. It's a very divided nation, though. Most Londoners voted to stay. Now, that's probably a reflection of the fact that London is a more global city. More of the jobs here rely on the EU and on globalisation in general. House prices are rising. A lot of Londoners feel relatively prosperous, although there are those who don't. The rest of the country, however, just is slightly fed up with London running things, and it was a bit of a anti-London vote too, to be honest.
Yeah, but what about Scotland and Northern Ireland? What's going to happen with them?
Scotland and Northern Ireland were the slight exceptions to all this. They, along with London, voted against leaving the EU. I think that's because they see their identities as being quite distinct from the rest of the UK anyway, in many respects. Wales, however, was an interesting one as they voted to leave. A lot of the counties around the UK, they actually stand to benefit the most from EU funding, were the ones that voted against staying the EU. So it was quite a surprising vote all round.
Is it the United Kingdom any more or do you think that Scotland is getting ready to go?
The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has already said that a vote for the UK to leave the EU could trigger another independence referendum in Scotland, so it's not a united kingdom at all at the moment. I mean, some people are saying that this is independence day, that this will lead to Britain being great again. However, there are others that are saying we're less 'great Britain' and more 'little Britain' by the day.
Before the vote they were saying that Brexit could lead to a year-long recession. So was it scaremongering or are people actually preparing for the worst there?
I think there will be some short, sharp shocks coming immediately, as we've seen overnight with the pound plunging in value, and pensions going down. I think that will continue for some time, but, actually, I think the real repercussions will be felt for some time to come because a lot of jobs rely on the EU. A lot of the global institutions that make their home in London are here because they see the UK as a gateway to the rest of Europe. So this will have massive repercussions to come. That doesn't mean that it's all doom and gloom, though. There is talk of the UK restarting markets that they've neglected in the past, including with the Commonwealth, which is growing at a time when, actually, the EU is atrophying, so it doesn't all have to be negative, but in the short to medium term, I think there are going to be some serious implications.
You mention the Commonwealth. So what does it mean for us because Kiwis love to travel and work there. So what's it going to mean for us?
In the very short term, it might mean much cheaper holidays to the UK for New Zealanders. In the medium term, it may actually mean an opening up again of the highly skilled migrant category for skilled New Zealanders or New Zealanders in shortage jobs to come over here and work and live. However, it will have implications on New Zealanders' abilities to, sort of, freely roam around the EU and live and work where they like. Last night I could have up sticks and moved to Frankfurt and lived there and worked there, no questions asked. I've got two years to still do that but after that time, the gate will slam shut, I think.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has announced his resignation, but all through this campaign, he said he was going to stay either way, win or lose. So does this show the Conservatives are breaking apart.
I think it's more a sign of David Cameron realising there's not really much in it for him or for the country in him staying. I mean, he feels utterly defeated in this. I think he was shocked. You could hear his voice breaking today in his resignation statement. I've never seen him quite that emotional. He was almost moved to tears. I think there was also a lot of anger in the Tory grass roots at him anyway because a lot of Conservatives don't think he's right-wing enough or a proper Tory, so there's been some agitation for him to go for a while. And as soon as he announced he wasn't going to stand for yet another term, then I think the writing was pretty much on the wall.
So who's going to step into his shoes? Is Boris on his bike peddling to Number 10 as we speak?
I think Boris is quite a likely successor to David Cameron. And he played his cards very close to his chest, and then he suddenly announced to everyone that he was going to campaign for the 'leave' side. Now, this came as a bit of a shock to the Prime Minister and to friends of Boris who, before then, had known him as a committed Europhile. I mean, his father worked for the European Commission. His school fees at Eton were paid for by the EU, so it's some irony that in the end he ended up campaigning against it. But, you know, he played a good game and he's got a lot of Tory MPs on board who weren't that sure about Boris before. So I think he's a very likely successor to David Cameron. There's also Theresa May, the home secretary. She's another likely contender. And who knows who else will come forward? But they don't have a heck of a lot of time cos the Prime Minister said that someone else needs to be in place before the autumn conference.
Boris is a pretty divisive character, though, isn't he? I mean, is he really going to be able to bring the Conservative Party back together?
He is quite a divisive character for the Tories, however, the thing about Boris is that he's spent his entire life, basically, as an amateur historian. Not a professional one. He's made a lot of money out of it. And he's spent that whole time studying the rise of Roman emperors. So I think Boris knows exactly what he's doing when he's looking at strategy and playing the long game and getting into power. Don't forget, also, Boris managed to override the, sort of, centre-left or the liberal instincts of London to become a Conservative mayor of London. So he has cross-party appeal. He cuts through where other Conservatives perhaps don't. So the challenge really for Boris is to get on to the ballot paper for the leadership. From thereon in, you know, he has quite a good chance of becoming prime minister if they did call a snap election, particularly against Jeremy Corbyn at the moment — the Labour leader, who may or may not be in his post for long.
So what happens next?
Well, who knows? I mean, there's already some confusion over how long the divorce will take. Some people are calling for it to be immediate. Others are saying it will take at least two years for us to break free of the EU. But the deadline is 2018. By that time the EU and Britain will no longer have the same relationship. And it will be up to the UK to negotiate all these trade deals that it could take for granted until now.
Patrick Gower: So, what’s the politics of all this? Who better to ask than Tony Blair’s former spin king Alistair Campbell? I spoke to him shortly after the result came through.
Alistair Campbell: It’s a very, very big shock. If you think that just a few years ago, really, the UK Independence Party was a fringe cause, it’s now the main party. Their reason for existence – getting Britain out of Europe – has been successful. So, it’s going to throw up in the air our politics, our economics. It’s already cost the job of the Prime Minister – that’s quite a big deal. What everybody’s trying to do today – all the Conservative politicians – is say, ‘Well, we’ve been through a big, bad, bruising encounter. We can come together and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.’ I think it’ll be very difficult in the short-term. In a funny way, particularly without David Cameron there, because even though I think that Cameron will and should be rueing the day that he called this referendum and he’s been completely destroyed by it, and in the meantime we’ve got this risk to the economy, the risk to jobs and investment. What’s extraordinary, a bit like Trump has managed to colonise and promote himself as the voice of the working man and the struggling working man in the United States, old Etonian Boris Johnson from Eton and Oxbridge has somehow managed to do the same thing here, and yet the people that he’s going to hit hardest first are the working people that in their millions have voted for it.
Well, this is the question that we’re asking here from New Zealand – is the United Kingdom still stable?
Parliament resumes next week, but you’ve not got a situation where over 500 of our 650 MPs voted to stay in the European Union and most of them, their constituents have voted to get out. That’s a big deal. So, I think we’re stable, but in terms of fundamentals, we’re going to go through a period of volatility and instability, and you know as well as I do, when that happens, all sorts of unexpected things happen. This is a complete and total mess, and I must confess, admittedly, after 36 hours without sleep, that it’s incredibly depressing.
How soon until Boris Johnson is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in your opinion?
It’s interesting, I don’t know if you’ve seen on your television yet, but he just came out of his house for the first time since the vote, and there were dozens and dozens and dozens of protestors outside booing and trying to attack him. And this is what I mean about the division; there’s so much anger within the Conservative Party about the fact that he’s destroyed Cameron, that we now have this kind of massive upheaval. He’s the guy who said that all this talk of economic meltdown, this total scaremongering and project fear, we’ve managed fine. And meanwhile this has been the blackest day for sterling since we crashed out of the exchange rate mechanism.
Who, in your opinion, then, is the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?
Listen, I’ve never put a bet on politicians in my life. If you made me put my life on it, I’d say probably Boris Johnson.
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