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After U.K. Election Victory, Prime Minister David Cameron Finalizes His Cabinet


In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron is finalizing his first all-Conservative government. For the last five years, Cameron ran Great Britain in coalition with a smaller party. But in elections on Thursday, Conservatives did so well, they can now govern on their own. NPR's Ari Shapiro joins us from London to discuss what we can expect from this new British government. So Ari, Prime Minister Cameron comes out of this election stronger. What are the biggest issues his new government is going to face now?

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Well, possibly the biggest issue is one of Cameron's choosing. He has promised to let British voters decide whether the U.K. should stay in the European Union or leave. And before he offers that referendum in 2017, he's going to try to renegotiate the terms of Britain's membership in the EU. He wants less regulation from Brussels, less immigration from Eastern Europe. He's under a lot of pressure from the right of his own party.

So one big relationship to watch in the next year or two is going to be between the U.K. and the rest of the continent. This'll be a really difficult negotiation. And at the end of it, honestly, nobody knows whether the U.K. will remain part of the European Union or not.

RATH: And what about the relationship with the U.S.? What is the continuity of David Cameron's government - his leadership mean for U.S. interests?

SHAPIRO: Well, President Obama's been working with Prime Minister Cameron for the last five years, so there's a lot of familiarity. They appear to get along well. But this new government is planning on taking some steps that might make the U.S. unhappy. Foremost, Britain is planning to cut its military dramatically in the next few years.

A lot of American leaders have expressed concern about that. President Obama even brought it up when Cameron visited the White House earlier this year - in private, he mentioned it to him. So I expect the relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. will stay strong. But defense budgets are likely to be one major sticking point between the two countries.

RATH: So victory for the Conservatives in Britain, but also there was a huge success for the Scottish Nationalists. That party took up almost every seat in Scotland. What can we expect them to bring to the new U.K. government?

SHAPIRO: A liberal perspective and a lot of tension with Conservatives, basically. The Scottish Nationalists came to great success by opposing austerity, opposing cuts to social service programs, both of which are the complete opposite position from the Conservative Party. They are far to the left on the political spectrum, and they now have more than 50 seats in Parliament.

That's not enough to chart the course of government, but it's enough to make a lot of noise, give big headaches to the Conservative government and fight for more power for Scotland. So especially as the center-left Labour Party is feeling weak and defeated, the Scottish National Party feels like it's on a tear. As the former leader of the party, Alex Salmond, said the Scottish Lion has roared. That roaring is probably going to give a big headache to Conservatives.

RATH: And does that roaring - does that triumph of the Scottish Nationalists mean we're going to see another independence vote in Scotland?

SHAPIRO: Well, many Scottish Nationalists are hoping so and many others are afraid that we're going to see another independence vote. For the time being, party leader Nicola Sturgeon says she's going to work with the government to try to do what's best for the whole country. But, as I just said, these parties have hugely different views on what's best for the whole country. And while they're not pushing for another independence vote short-term, it's certainly not out of the question longer-term.

RATH: NPR's Ari Shapiro in London. Thanks Ari.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome, Arun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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