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Britain's Prime Minister Receives More Criticism For Brexit Strategy



Hundreds of thousands of protesters in London last week demanded what they called a people's vote on Brexit. Here's how London Mayor Sadiq Khan put it to The Associated Press.


SADIQ KHAN: What we're saying is that some of the promises made two years ago clearly have not materialized. Nobody was talking about a bad Brexit deal. Nobody was talking about no deal whatsoever.

INSKEEP: The prime minister who is trying to complete Brexit is in some political danger. Members of Theresa May's own Conservative Party are said to be plotting against her, forcing some in the opposition Labour Party to defend her. Here's Keir Starmer, who's the shadow Brexit minister.


KEIR STARMER: Some of the quotes and comments about the prime minister this weekend attributed to Conservative MPs, ministers or former ministers are nothing short of disgraceful.

INSKEEP: NPR's London correspondent, Frank Langfitt, is on the line.

Frank, good morning.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Is Britain any closer to actually completing this deal to leave the EU?

LANGFITT: Well, it's interesting, Steve. Prime Minister May was in the House of Commons yesterday. She says 95 percent of the deal is done. But that remaining 5 percent is huge. So we've talked - it's about how to avoid a border on the island of Ireland. Now, you know, by leaving the EU, the U.K. creates a need for a border between Ireland...


LANGFITT: ...Which is, you know, part of the part of the EU and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. But they can't seem to work out an agreement on this, and that's what's been holding everything up.

INSKEEP: So with all of this pressure on Theresa May from within her own party for essentially not having a hard enough Brexit or not getting a deal done or just because Conservatives infight, can she survive?

LANGFITT: There was really tough language as you were hearing from Keir Starmer. There was a talk yesterday - I guess in the last few days - where even a member of her party said, there's a meeting on Wednesday, and she should bring her own noose. It's very hard language, and it really actually kind of bothered people here in the United Kingdom. But the thing is, what's been remarkable about Prime Minister May is she's been at this now for two years, and she's still standing. A lot of people didn't think she'd be here. And even opponents, I think, have some grudging respect for her - her ability to sort of continue to take punches but continue to work on this. And the other thing is, there's nobody obvious to replace her. And the Tory Party, her party, the Conservatives, are very concerned about another election where they could lose to Labour.

INSKEEP: Well, I'm trying to figure this out, Frank. I'm just going across the political spectrum.


INSKEEP: We have May sort of in the middle, trying to get a deal done. There are people on her right who want it to be a harder deal, that Britain...

LANGFITT: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: ...Would have more independence from the EU. But then there are these people on the left, the hundreds of thousands that we mentioned, who went out and protested for a people's vote on Brexit. What exactly would that be?

LANGFITT: Well, what they are talking about there is - here's what they basically said. They say, you know, 2016, when this vote was first put to the people, they feel they were sold a bill of goods. The Brexiteers said, everything's going to be great. We're going to cut a great deal with the EU. We're going to get a lot of money back to pay for health care. None of that's happened. And Brexit negotiations are what British call a shambles, and pretty much everybody agrees on that. And so that's what they want, but it's not likely that Theresa May is going to go for this because it's the last thing she wants to do. She has so much trouble politically in her party and beyond, she certainly doesn't want to take this back to the people.

INSKEEP: There's no going back is what you're saying.

LANGFITT: No, I really - it's very unlikely at this point, Steve.

INSKEEP: Frank, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt speaking with us from London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.
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