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1 Year Later: What People In The U.K. Think About Brexit Progress


Britain triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty one year ago today, which officially began the Brexit process. And that means there's one year left before Britain must leave the European Union. Reporters from Bloomberg traveled all around the United Kingdom interviewing more than a hundred people about their views on Brexit and what's changed.

One of those reporters was Charlotte Ryan, who joins us now from London. Welcome.


CHANG: So this was a collaboration with five reporters. Where did you go?

RYAN: So I went to Edinburgh in Scotland. And then I came down south and went to Milton Keynes, which is a commuter town outside London. And the other place I went to was Canterbury, which is a very kind of picturesque town, a lot of European students. So three quite different places, and what we were really trying to do with this project was get away from this tendency to only think of British politics and especially Brexit in terms of London.

CHANG: Was there any particular person whose story struck you?

RYAN: So I think the story that struck me the most was when we went to Canterbury, we went to the harbor and were able to interview one of the fishermen. There was someone for whom leaving the EU was really not about worries about immigration or wanting to strike out alone because of some national pride. It was really about his livelihood. He spoke to us very passionately about EU fishing quotas and how he felt the industry would do much better with the EU. But what he also said was that he felt he'd been dismissed by a lot of friends. He said that his wife was in a different industry altogether and that some of her friends would no longer invite them over because they knew that he had voted to leave the European Union.

CHANG: What surprised you most after doing all these interviews?

RYAN: The thing that surprised me most was how little people had changed their minds. Since the referendum, a lot of people have been saying that voters were misled; they made a mistake; if we had another referendum, it would go the other way. And obviously, I mean, we only spoke to 130 people. We're not saying that this is a statistically significant poll. But what was interesting was that among a range of people, very few had changed their minds in either direction.

CHANG: How did the people you spoke with feel about the way the current government's been managing the Brexit process?

RYAN: Yeah. I think very annoyed and disappointed in the main. People really weren't happy with how the talks were going so far. And there's a lot of anger that we saw among people towards the current prime minister, Theresa May, because of that. She has been seen by a lot of people as quite a weak leader. And what people told us was that they didn't think she was getting us the best deal that the U.K. could get.

CHANG: So what is left in the Brexit process? What still needs to be done before Brexit can be truly official?

RYAN: So honestly the answer is most of it. We've got one year to go until Britain officially leaves the EU, and we really don't have a sense of what's coming. And there's still a lot to be decided in terms of the rights of U.K. and EU citizens, and also the border in Ireland and how that is going to be handled because part of Ireland is in the European Union.

CHANG: Charlotte Ryan is a reporter for Bloomberg. Thank you very much for joining us.

RYAN: Great. Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF GRAMATIK'S "SKYLIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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