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British Ambassador Hopes 'Brexit' Will Begin A 'New Relationship'


We're going to continue our coverage of Brexit now with a special guest. We're joined by the United Kingdom's ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch. He's a 30-year diplomat. He spent three years advising the outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron on security issues. He was also the British representative to the European Union during the height of the financial crisis. Sir Kim Darroch has been serving here in the United States since January. He joins me now in our studios in Washington. Ambassador, welcome to the program.

KIM DARROCH: Thank you very much for inviting me.

SUAREZ: Have the British people just taken a leap into the unknown?

DARROCH: The debate in the U.K. leading up to the vote yesterday was extremely lively, heated at times, went on for quite a long time. So there is no excuse for anyone not understanding the arguments for and against. There was a huge turnout and a very clear victory for the Leave campaign, who got more than a million votes more than Remain.

SUAREZ: One of the EU's biggest concerns is that more countries will now consider having breakaway votes. Should the European Union make an example out of the U.K. to prevent just that kind of mass exit?

DARROCH: I think there is sadness, judging by the statements other European leaders have made. But there's also understanding that this was a thoroughly democratic process. So I think there is acceptance, and I don't think ideas of punishment are part of that. I think we will now, I hope, in a sober and realistic and careful way, negotiate a new relationship.

And on Monday morning, when we all go back into work again, the U.K. is in the same place in terms of participation in European meetings, in terms of participation in European votes, as we were today or yesterday. In that sense, nothing has changed.

SUAREZ: One of the most convincing arguments - and when Scottish voters talked to reporters and pollsters after the referendum, one of the most salient arguments for voting to remain in the United Kingdom was the fact that it would also allow them to remain in the EU. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, is already talking about reopening the question of continued Scottish presence in the United Kingdom. Has this vote opened a new set of conversations about the future of the United Kingdom as a United Kingdom?

DARROCH: The vote on Scottish independence was less than two years ago. There was a clear result from it, and we're now moving on. The important thing now is that when we begin to negotiate about the terms of our departure from the European Union and the terms of a new relationship with Europe, that all parts of the United Kingdom are involved in that preparation for that negotiation and support the way that we are going. So that will be the objective.

SUAREZ: Should we Americans who've been watching this happen come away convinced that this can't be revisited, it is done?

DARROCH: The prime minister was very clear throughout the debates that preceded the referendum. This was a once-in-a-generation vote, there were no second chances and that a vote to leave was a vote to leave and that's the position.

SUAREZ: That was the British ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch. He joined me in studio. Thanks so much for being with me, Mr. Ambassador.

DARROCH: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.