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'Brexit' Repercussions Continue In U.K. Politics


Turning now to the U.K., where Thursday's earthquake Brexit vote continues to send aftershocks through British politics. In Scotland, more political leaders are openly discussing the drastic option of pulling out of the United Kingdom. And there have been a slew of resignations from the leading members of the opposition party in what some observers are calling a coup triggered by the EU referendum. David Torrance is a journalist based in Scotland who writes a column on U.K. politics for The Herald newspaper. He joins us from the BBC Studios in Edinburgh. David, welcome.

DAVID TORRANCE: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

SUAREZ: Today there's been a huge shake up in the opposition Labour Party. What's going on?

TORRANCE: Basically, Labour MPs have reached the conclusion that there will very likely be a general election - another general election - there was only one last June - by the end of this year and that if they retain their current leader, the left-winger Jeremy Corbyn, they will be white tight.

SUAREZ: Why is the leader of the opposition taking so much flak for this. Wasn't he campaigning in favor of remain in the European Union?

TORRANCE: He was, but there is a widespread impression - and, I think, an accurate one - that he did so extremely halfheartedly. Jeremy Corbyn is a product of left-wing politics in the 1970s and '80s. He is by instinct a Eurosceptic. And therefore when he pledged for a remain vote in the referendum, it simply didn't come across as convincing.

SUAREZ: One politician whose name is figured more and more in the coverage coming out of the aftermath of the Brexit vote is Nicola Sturgeon. Remind us who she is.

TORRANCE: Nicola Sturgeon is leader of the Scottish National Party, which wants Scotland to be independent from the U.K. There was, of course, a referendum on that issue less than two years ago, and the independence proposition was narrowly rejected at that point.

She sees an opportunity, not unreasonably, in what is unfolding in the wake of the European referendum to have another go at achieving independence. And so she is now opening what she calls direct negotiations with Brussels, with the European Union to see if it's possible to retain a place for Scotland within the European Union while the rest of the U.K. withdraws.

SUAREZ: Is she someone who is going to have a lot to say about what happens in your country in the next couple of months?

TORRANCE: Absolutely. Given that the situation in London - the leadership vacuum not only in the Conservative party, but increasingly in the Labour Party - Nicola Sturgeon has emerged that is the only political figure in the British Isles who appears to be on the front foot, who appears to be in control of events.

Of course, she's not. She is, by and large, responding to developing events, but she's doing so with a degree of sort of cool, impressive authority. And she's being reasonably frank with voters. She's not pretending to have all the answers. She's not pretending to know what will happen, but she's trying to stress stability in a very unstable situation.

There also seems to be a shift in public opinion. Opinion polls today suggest that there has been a surge in support of people who say they'd now vote in favor of independence. And indeed, judging by social media, they are at least revising their opinion, if not pledging outright support for independence. It feels quite significant. The ground is definitely shifting anecdotally, and as I say, it's backed up now by some opinion polls.

SUAREZ: David Torrance is a journalist based in the Scottish capital Edinburgh. He joined us from BBC Studios there. Thanks, David.

TORRANCE: Not at all. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.