Editor’s note: Thursday, voters in the UK went to the polls to decide whether to remain in the European Union or leave it. In an historic decision British voters decided to exit the union. Fox News anchor Dana Perino talked with her husband Peter McMahon about this week’s “Brexit” vote. Here’s her conversation with him.
1. Dana: What is your reaction to the Brexit? You said you reluctantly came to the view that Brexit was better for the UK. Why?
Peter: I say reluctantly because I know that there will be a can of worms to deal with commercially and financially. However, I believe that the principle of having self-determination is more important. When the UK joined the European Economic Community there were definite trading benefits; however when that evolved into increasing political control from Brussels, with laws and regulations being imposed on Britain, in my eyes it became too much.
2. From your point of view, what are the top driving reasons for the people of Britain wanting to leave?
I believe the main reason is that the population wanted to have greater control over what the UK can do and its direction. I would compare this to how U.S. citizens would feel if the NAFTA morphed into a political union of Canada, Mexico and the USA, governed by representatives of all three countries (where the other two countries had a greater combined vote than the U.S.) and based in Mexico City.
3. Why should we (Americans — that includes you!) care? How does this impact us, if at all?
There will be trading issues now since the UK will no longer be a part of what used to be known as the “Common Market.” However, there is no reason why trading should be any more of a problem with the UK than it is with numerous other non-EU countries.
4. What is the greatest immediate challenge Britain will have to overcome as a result of the Brexit?
Confidence in the sterling pound and the FTSE. The trading and tariff issues will not happen overnight. There has been a lot of saber rattling by other EU countries, but they will recognize that their own interests lie in sensible cooperation.
5. There is a statistic being circulated that states, “66 percent of people who left school at 16 voted for Leave; 71 percent of those with university degrees voted to Remain.” What does America get wrong about that statistic?
Going back 40 years, a large number of people were well-educated at the high school level but never attended university. In those days, attaining the required qualifications for university often led to direct employment for on-the-job training, as a bank manager, an accountant, or for instance, a career as an officer in the military or the merchant marine. As of today approximately 27 percent of the adult population between 21-74 have a university degree; many of those without are highly paid and experienced professionals. The statistic quoted leaves out a large percentage of the general population who did not leave school until 18 but did not obtain a degree, so it is not an accurate representation.
6. What does this mean for the United States’ relationship with Britain? What do you think of President Obama’s response this morning?
Somewhat different from his orchestrated “Back of the queue” comments of a few weeks ago that merely served to irritate a lot of British people. Of course the relationship will endure — it did not change when Britain entered the EEC in 1973.
7. Do you agree with Trump that anger with the government’s failure to control immigration was a key factor in this decision? Do you see a commonality between the Brexit motivations and the current immigration bickering within the U.S.?
There is some truth in what he says. The areas of the UK where the economy is less strong are struggling to cope with the costs of immigration and [these] are the [same] areas that voted most strongly for Brexit. However, I see it as different to the U.S. argument. The British did not want the European Parliament dictating to them what their immigration policy should be with no regard to their ability to handle it. The UK is regarded as a ‘soft touch’ for immigrants — which is why so many supposedly desperate refugees travel thousands of miles to get there; Brexit will allow the UK to decide for themselves just what they can and can’t handle.
8. What lessons can we learn from Prime Minister Cameron’s leadership in this instance?
That he had the courage of his convictions and did his best for what he believed was right. His resignation speech was gracious in defeat and patriotic. Though if he had toned down his rhetoric and threats which in some cases was almost bordering on hysteria, he may kept greater credibility in his arguments [and might even] have swung the couple of percent more of voters that he needed.
9. Do you think any of the UK countries will go to the finals in the European Football Championship playing out this week?
Nope. But then we are accustomed to that.
Dana Perino currently serves as co-host of FOX News Channel’s “The Five” (weekdays 5-6PM/ET). She previously served as Press Secretary for President George W. Bush. She is the author of the new book “And the Good News Is…: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side” (Twelve, April 21, 2015). Ms. Perino joined the network in 2009 as a contributor. Click here for more information on Dana Perino. Follow her on Twitter@DanaPerino.