A Divided Britain – DR P1 (radio interview)

This interview was translated and broadcast on the P1 radio station of DR, the Danish national broadcaster, on 26 March 2019 (33:20-40:00)

Steffen Gram, Senior International Correspondent, Danish Broadcasting Corp: We have come down to London, where the majority of Brits voted to stay in the EU. And we have arrived about a day after a million people protested for a second referendum. We are waiting for our appointment with Jason Reed. He is eighteen years old and in his first year as a student at one of the UK’s best universities, the London School of Economics. He has come to London from his life in the county of Dorset, arriving in September. He is happy about Brexit, happy about Theresa May and with great hopes for Britain and its glorious future outside the EU.

Jason Reed: I think that the political situation that we find ourselves in is a chaotic one, but it's one that is full of opportunity. I see Brexit as an opportunity for the UK.

Steffen Gram: How does the UK stand to benefit from leaving the EU?

Jason Reed: I would say that the biggest advantage of leaving the EU would be leaving the EU’s customs union, so that we regain control over our trade policy. We will no longer be controlled by the trade policy of Brussels. We will be able to trade with countries across the world, where there is greater growth potential. I believe the statistic is that 90 per cent of predicted economic growth will happen in countries outside of the EU. And we can benefit from that now that we are leaving the EU. There are other advantages, of course. We will no longer be under the jurisdiction of the European courts and we will leave the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. We will have the power to repeal regulations that constrain British workers. We will be able to decide on tariffs and other customs arrangements for ourselves. We will gain so much more control over our economy, and I think that is a great thing for Britain’s future.

Steffen Gram: When we meet with and talk to people, what we’re seeing is just how divided this country is. This is a country where people can really have difficulty talking to each other. There is a breakdown of communication between Remainers and Brexiters, for example. In Scotland, for instance, they say that people down here in England don’t care about them, that the ignorance is monumental. How do you see Britain today?

Jason Reed: The Brexit debate has brought a lot of discord to the surface for the first time in a while. Those divisions and tensions have always been there, but now they have been exposed to the light and we can see them clearly. I was actually pleasantly surprised when I moved to London by the variety of different opinions being expressed all the time. There will always be people who disagree with you, no matter your opinion. That’s not necessarily the case elsewhere. For example, I have lived most of my life in Dorset, where I believe around sixty per cent of people voted to leave the EU, which is quite a high proportion by national standards.

Steffen Gram: Why would they vote to leave in Dorset?

Jason Reed: It is, for the most part, a middle-class area. You could say that the people who live there are privileged and that they don’t have to worry so much about losing their job at a car factory, or many of the other things that give Brexit an entirely different meaning in the north of the country. People in Dorset are conservative and patriotic. They dislike the fact that a foreign power has so much authority over domestic matters here in the UK, in the way that the EU does. They wanted to take back control. That is probably the main reason why they wanted to leave.

Steffen Gram: Would you say that, by being British, you don’t really belong to the continent? Is that something you feel?

Jason Reed: There is certainly an aspect of that. An interesting thing to observe is the way that a lot of people on the Remain side have started openly identifying as European rather than British or English since the referendum, essentially putting a European identity ahead of a British identity. I think that is significant. Britain has always been a bit different from the rest of Europe, a bit of an odd one out. We have always been outside the Eurozone and the Schengen Area, for example. Perhaps we have felt, to some extent, like second-class citizens of the EU, and that has definitely contributed to the national sentiment, especially with regards to Euroscepticism. Those things have combined to create the feeling that we can make it on our own and convinced us that we don’t actually need to be a part of any European union.

Steffen Gram: What is your vision for Britain’s tomorrow? Europe is behind you, and you’re now on your own. What do you expect Britain to become, and what do you want to see it become, as a nation? You are only eighteen years old. You are young. As we discussed before the interview, you haven’t even voted yet. But you have very strong feelings about these issues.

Jason Reed: I see Britain’s future as a crucial part of the explosion of global capitalism. We will be able to trade freely with other countries as an independent nation, free of the chains of the protectionist EU. We will gain a huge amount from our new position, and we will be better placed to contribute a lot to global prosperity. The world was a very different place before we joined the EU. Now, there are a huge amount of opportunities for Britain, which will allow it to truly become a global player. That can only happen outside the EU. We have been in the EU’s shadow for far too long. Great Britain can walk on its own two legs and have a constructive, mutually beneficial relationship with Europe, along with the US, Japan, China, India and other booming non-European economies, without being held back by the EU.

Steffen Gram: Jason, you are a young Conservative. Are you different from your peers and friends, politically?

Jason Reed: My views on Brexit, and on politics as a whole, are probably not representative of my peers. My generation is overwhelmingly Europhilic. They see Brexit as the result of a surge in right-wing nostalgia. I don’t see it like that. I think it is an opportunity.

Steffen Gram: So, Jason Reed does not see Brexit as an exercise in nostalgia, but an opportunity to create a productive future for Britain.