SIGNALCAST: The SignalCast team traveled across the pond to sit down with the Rt Hon Jack Straw, recent UK Foreign Secretary under UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss all things Brexit, the United Kingdom’s role in the European Union (EU) and how the Brexit chaos impacts US-UK relations.
SIGNALCAST: Welcome to SignalCast, the podcast from Signal Group. Signal’s a bipartisan communication and advocacy firm located in Washington, D.C. For today’s discussion we thought it might be best to pack up the studio, jump on a plane, and fly across the pond for a front row view into the crazy world of Brexit. With yesterday’s historic defeat of Teresa May’s Brexit Bill in Parliament, the future of England’s place in the EU is uncertain. Today we’re joined by my colleague Mark Duffy who spent some time behind the scenes of the UK Parliament, and a very special guest the Right Honourable Jack Straw, former UK Foreign Secretary under Prime Minister Tony Blair. Welcome to you both.
RIGHT HONOURABLE JACK STRAW: Thank you.
SC: Mark, why don’t you give our listeners a quick 30,000 ft history lesson on Brexit to date.
MARK DUFFY: Yes, absolutely. After winning reelection in May 2015, David Cameron went about renegotiating the UK-EU relationship. In June 2016, there was the referendum here in the UK with an historic turnout of about 71% of people. The referendum passed by a very slim margin, 51.9% were for it, while everyone else was against it. In March of 2017, the new Prime Minister Teresa May invoked Article 50, which leads to Britain withdrawing from the EU. Last night here in Parliament we saw Prime Minister Teresa May’s Brexit bill fail by a large majority. I think the future of where things go from here is very uncertain.
SC: For Secretary Straw, what will Teresa May do next?
RT HON JACK STRAW: Nobody knows. I doubt that she really knows, and I just think that one piece of the history which is really important to understand, is that in May 2017, Teresa May called a general election because she had a majority of about 15 over other parties, but because the Labour Party at that stage was unpopular, she thought she could win a big majority. So she went for the election, she ran a bad campaign, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn ran an unexpectedly good campaign, and the result of this was that although the share of the votes which Teresa May and the Conservatives gained was very respectable – at 43% – they lost seats. Labour gained some seats, sort of 15 seat gap, but critically Teresa May lost her majority in the House of Commons. That then meant she had to do a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, these are the Protestant community in Northern Ireland who have traditionally been associated with the Conservative Party, but they have proved a real thorn in her side over the Brexit negotiations.
Now what’s going to happen, nobody’s sure. And there’s not been a situation like this in British politics since the crisis over the abolition of Cornwall’s tariffs on corn in the 1840’s, and I’m not exaggerating. This is totally uncharted territory.
*Want to hear the rest of Signal’s conversation with Rt Hon Jack Straw? Listen to the full SignalCast for more.