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Pro-Brexit Campaigner Remains Optimistic About UK's Future


Brexit has brought uncertainty to British politics and also to financial markets. Today the pound fell to a 31-year low, and stocks in Europe were down. But throughout the United Kingdom, there are lots of people who are hopeful about their country's future, and we're going to hear from one of them. Matthew McPherson was a leave activist from Newcastle. He's a university student in Glasgow. Welcome to the program.

MATTHEW MCPHERSON: Hello. Good to speak to you.

SIEGEL: Since that night almost two weeks ago when the votes were counted, the pound has lost value. The claim that hundreds of millions of pounds a week would return to help Britain's National Health Service has been retracted. No immigrants are going anywhere just yet. Boris Johnson has dropped out of the contest for leading the Conservative Party. Do you have any regrets about your vote?

MCPHERSON: Definitely not. I think we always knew that there was risks on both sides. There was huge risks of staying in. And I knew there was risks with voting to leave, but I think that those risks are less. I mean, yes, there has been an initial shock, and I'm not particularly surprised about that. But I think over time we'll have many benefits of voting to leave.

SIEGEL: There is an idea that's at least popular in the United States, I gather, that a great many British voters who voted to leave did so as a protest vote and now regret having cast the vote that way. Do you know such people?

MCPHERSON: Possibly. I'm sure there are people who voted to leave and now because of the initial shock regret it. However, I've spoken to quite a few people who've said they voted to remain but they're actually happy with the result. They've hated the European Union, but they voted to remain because they were worried. So I think there's people on both sides, really.

SIEGEL: During the campaign, you knocked on a lot of doors for the leave campaign. You spoke to a lot of voters. Do you think that leave supporters were saying, we think Britain will be more prosperous out of the EU, or do you think they were saying, Britain's sovereignty would be restored and that would even be a price worth losing some prosperity over?

MCPHERSON: I think there was lots and lots of different issues for different people. I mean, for me it was all about democracy. But there was people who, you know, their main reason for voting leave was immigration. There was people who for the main reason to voting to leave was for prosperity. But I actually think that for most people, it was democracy. And the most important thing is that we control our own laws and that our own politicians in our own country make them rather than unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.

SIEGEL: In this country when people hear about a vote that's even in part anti-immigrant, they think is it - well, is this the same phenomenon as Donald Trump's campaign on this side of the ocean? Do you feel some kinship there?

MCPHERSON: No I don't. I just don't. I can see why people make a comparison because there was of course the aspect of controlling immigration within the campaign, but I certainly don't think any of the tones that have been used by anyone within the leave campaign have been similar to those used by Donald Trump.

SIEGEL: Matthew, you belong to two groups that overwhelmingly voted to remain. You're a university student.


SIEGEL: And you're a university student in Scotland. You may not be a Scot, but you live in Scotland.


SIEGEL: I'm wondering what you've been hearing from your friends and classmates about the result and about your activism in favor of leaving.

MCPHERSON: I generally find people are in favor of democracy. Nobody has a problem with me going out and campaigning or putting a poster up in my window. Everyone says, well, this is your choice. Obviously there are a huge number of my own friends who are - were sort of - you know, this sort of outpouring of grief, as they would say, on Facebook the next day.

However, there seems to be a lot of people who said to me, well, I really wanted to remain; I'm devastated with the result, but I didn't vote. And I do think that if people are complaining about the result, in all honesty, they should have voted. I think there's a lot of people in my own age group who did not go and vote, and I think if you want to complain about the result, you need to have been part of the democratic process.

SIEGEL: Matthew McPherson of Newcastle upon Tyne, activist for the leave campaign, the victorious leave campaign, thank you very much for talking with us.

MCPHERSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.