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Brexit doesn’t have to be a lose-lose deal, says UK ambassador

March 29, 2017 at 6:40 PM EDT
After the United Kingdom gave its formal notice of its intention to split from the E.U., the European Council president lamented, "There is no reason to pretend that this is a happy day." But what does Brexit mean for the British people? British Ambassador to the U.S. Kim Darroch joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the decision to break away and the path ahead.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we return to Brexit and Great Britain’s official move today to begin the process of leaving the European Union.

I spoke a short time ago with the British ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch.

And I began by asking if he thinks the head of the European Union, Donald Tusk, was right when he said this is not a happy day in London or Brussels.

SIR KIM DARROCH, Ambassador, United Kingdom: I wouldn’t put it like that, Judy.

This was a clear democratic decision by the British people, 52 percent to 48 percent on that famous day, June 23 last year. And it’s now about delivering what the British people asked for. So, for me, it’s an outcome of democracy, it’s a decision. And we now need to get the best possible deal for the British people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, when Mr. Tusk says it’s not a win for either side, that it’s more about damage control, what would you — how would you describe it?

SIR KIM DARROCH: Well, I think it’s an opportunity for us to establish, as the prime minister said today, a deep and lasting and serious partnership with the European Union, which covers security issues, which covers economic issues, and which has at its heart a new comprehensive free trade agreement, which will be a huge benefit to both sides of the negotiations, both to the U.K. and to the European Union.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask you about the prime minister’s letter to Mr. Tusk today, to the European Union.

Among others things, she referenced rising protectionist instincts around the world. She mentioned security worries across Europe. She talked about weakening — she said, “Weakening our cooperation would be a costly mistake.”

That seems to contradict the very idea of leaving. Why leave the union if these are concerns?

SIR KIM DARROCH: Well, the British people wanted to leave the European Union, for a number of reasons, which people will be analyzing for some time to come.

But I think regaining control of our borders and restoring the full sovereignty of the British Parliament were big parts in that decision. But the point about the proposition that we are putting to the European Union in the prime minister’s letter is that, as committed free traders and people who believe in open markets, we think we can have a comprehensive free trade arrangement with the European Union that will be of great benefit to both sides.

So, it doesn’t have to be lose-lose. It can be win-win.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The prime minister, also a couple of points in the letter, she referred to what she called a deep and special partnership that Britain desires with the E.U.

And to turn that question around, why would the E.U. want a special partnership with a country that has just said, we want no part of you?

SIR KIM DARROCH: Well, we didn’t say that. We say that we’re leaving the European Union because that’s the decision the British people took, but we’re not leaving Europe.

And we’re part of Europe geographically, and we’re going to continue to be part of Europe’s future in terms of the challenges Europe faces, security, economic development and so on.

And, look, we’re the sixth biggest economy in the world and a huge market for the European Union to send its goods, its manufactured goods, its products into. And I believe they will find it very much in their interest to come to an agreement with us which allows the freest possible access for those — all those exports.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I think people want to understand how this new relationship is going to work.

And the prime minister today, again, in the letter spoke of a bold and ambitious, in her words, fair trade agreement between the U.K. and the E.U.

How is that going to be different from the current relationship?

SIR KIM DARROCH: Well, as she also has said in Parliament today, while we’re in the single market, we are part of the body that makes the rules of the single market, decisions about regulation and that kind of thing.

We accept that, as we leave the single market, we will no longer be in that position, but that doesn’t stop us having access, as full access as we can negotiate for both sides, for them into the U.K. and for us into Europe, for our goods and our services. So, that’s the objective.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How worried are you and others in the leadership of the British government about the economic cost to Great Britain, jobs being moved out of the country, companies moving out, businesses, employers?

SIR KIM DARROCH: I mean, so far, since the decision of 23 June last year, actually, the British economy has thrived. And we have the second highest growth — highest rate in the G7 last year, and it’s looking good again this year.

We have had one of the strongest economies amongst the major countries for some time now. So, I’m confident about the future. And I think that, if we can achieve the sort of objectives the prime minister’s set out, it can be to our benefit and to Europe’s benefit as well.

Conversely, you know, if we weren’t to get the kind of free trade arrangements that we enjoy now and that we hope to get to a free trade agreement in the future, it would damage both sides. I don’t see the sense in arriving at an outcome that is damaging to both sides. So, I’m hopeful about progress in this negotiation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, let me ask you about the comment from the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, today.

He said, whatever future the U.K.-E.U. relationship looks like, he said, we want the U.K. to continue to be a strong leader in Europe.

Is that possible under these circumstances?

SIR KIM DARROCH: We are, apart from being a very open economy, and a great leader in free trade, we’re also engaged in — all over the world, we have our military in over 70 countries around the world.

And we’re big players, for example, in the action against Da’esh in Iraq and Syria and Libya. And that’s all going to continue. Indeed, we may do more in the future. So, I think everything points to us continuing to be big international players and very strong allies for the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the United States, thank you very much.

SIR KIM DARROCH: Thank you.

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