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British Reaction To Brexit Outcome; Cameron To Step Down

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's bring one other voice in now. Peter Westmacott is on the line with us from London. He's the former British ambassador to the United States. Ambassador, good morning.

PETER WESTMACOTT: Good morning.

GREENE: So how are you reacting to this news this morning?

WESTMACOTT: Well, I'm disappointed and surprised. At midnight last night I was at a friend's house with a number of British and American and one of our other nationality friends. Sterling was up $1.50. It looked as though the remain camp were probably going to squeak it. And then, in the course of the night, we had a very different result. So I think that this morning's reactions, there's a degree of shock.

There's a strong sense of division out there. There are a lot of people who are deeply disappointed. And of course, London, the southeast - it's like the economic powerhouse of the country, and the political capital voted strongly to remain. So there's a strong sense of disappointment down here in the southeast, even though there's a lot of enthusiasm in other parts of the country. So I think it is a day of surprise, of shock. The markets are obviously very disappointed, didn't expect this.

GREENE: Yeah, and that's something we'll be watching. And I wonder, I mean, economically could be a crisis is - is Britain in a political crisis right now with with David Cameron stepping down as prime minister?

WESTMACOTT: Well, people have thought about this, of course, in advance. Clearly the prime minister had made his own contingency plans. The governor of the Bank of England had made plans to ensure that the economy, the finances, the banking system was, you know, going to be sufficiently resilient. He's been out there talking about the measures that have been taken and will be taken if necessary. So I think everybody is doing, I feel like, what they would've had to do, what they'd planned to do in the event of this vote going the way that it did. Frankly, I think that it's not a huge surprise that David Cameron has said he will be stepping down. Most of the commentators thought in advance that if a referendum was lost, he wouldn't have had much choice.

GREENE: Ambassador, let me - we just have a about a minute left.

WESTMACOTT: Yes.

GREENE: Donald Trump is celebrating this vote, saying this is now British independence that has been restored. And he says this is a great victory for British independence. How do you react to that?

WESTMACOTT: Well, I think this take back control, it's not dissimilar from make America great again. It's a catchy slogan. My own view is this is not immediately the best outcome for Britain. But we will need to do our best to make success of it, to ensure that the relations with the rest of the European Union are strong, that the exit is as orderly as it can be and that Britain's place in the world remains as robust as it has been in the past. But we are going to have our work cut out.

GREENE: OK, we've been speaking with Peter Westmacott, who joined us from London. He is the former British ambassador to the United States. Mr. ambassador, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

WESTMACOTT: Thank you.

GREENE: And Rachel I will be following this news all morning long. Once again, many in Europe, many in the United Kingdom waking up to a surprise - the results of that big referendum yesterday. The people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union, beginning a long process of transition now for both Britain and the continent. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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