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Brexit Party Is A Tour De Force In European Parliament Elections

NOEL KING, HOST:

Over the weekend, the European Union held parliamentary elections. And Britain's governing Conservative Party and the main opposition party, Labour, got a shock. The Brexit Party, which is just 6 weeks old, won 29 of 73 seats available. That's more than any other party. Their political platform is for the U.K. to leave the European Union as soon as possible, even if it means without a Brexit agreement in place. Brexit Party is led by populist Nigel Farage. In a speech after the victory, Farage talked about the Brexit deadline, which, at the moment, is set for the end of October.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIGEL FARAGE: If we don't leave on October 31, then the scores you've seen for the Brexit Party today will be repeated in a general election. And we are getting ready for it.

KING: I'm on the line with Belinda de Lucy. She's a newly elected member of the European Parliament, and she is a member of the Brexit Party.

Good morning.

BELINDA DE LUCY: Yes, good morning. Thank you for having me.

KING: This party was only established a few weeks ago. What compelled you to join it and to run?

DE LUCY: Well, to be honest, millions are politically homeless at the moment in the U.K. We voted in good faith in 2016 to leave the European Union. And we were promised that our decision would be implemented by our politicians. Unfortunately, they have failed to honor their pledge. And millions feel - they feel very let down. They feel betrayed, and they feel that their trust has been terribly misplaced in the two major parties.

And the Brexit Party is the only home - a natural home - for us all to go to. It's the only party that is intent on delivering Brexit in its fullness. And I'm very, very happy and grateful to Nigel for providing such a moderate, peaceful, positive and diverse platform for millions of us to go to.

KING: I suppose that sense of betrayal is understandable if you voted for Brexit. In your victory speech, you talked about Brexit opponents as taking over the narrative. And you say that's why Brexit hasn't happened yet. But isn't a big part of the problem that political leaders can't agree on how Brexit should happen because this is a very complicated process?

DE LUCY: Yes, it is complex. But I genuinely believe that our politicians should be up to the job. And if they're not up to the job, then they should, quite frankly, resign. You know, they - we are the boss, if you like. The people gave a very clear instruction to our parliamentarians to deliver Brexit in its complexity, work out a brilliant deal - the only way we could have got a good deal from the EU, by the way, is to have prepared for a no-deal at the beginning, make it a viable option for us to have left with no deal so the EU would eventually had to have sat down with us and given us a deal.

At the moment, they only want to give us a deal that doesn't allow us to benefit at all from Brexit because they need to protect their project and prevent other countries from leaving. And...

KING: Well, you and dozens of other party members have now been elected to an institution, the European Union, that you want to leave.

DE LUCY: Yes.

KING: What is the point of you being in Brussels?

DE LUCY: I know. It's a very good question. We all hope we're not there for very long. And, you know, we're like turkeys voting for Christmas, if you like. We're very keen to do ourselves out of a job. But it is a platform for us, at least, to, if you like, re-educate Brussels on the virtues of democracy, how fragile democracy is and that it must be supported no matter the result, to re-educate our Parliament on democracy and also to send a clear message to our government. If you don't implement Brexit, the next general election is going to be disastrous for you.

KING: Belinda de Lucy is a newly elected member of the EU Parliament from the Brexit Party.

Thanks so much for your time.

DE LUCY: Thank you so much. Bye-bye.

KING: All right, so for some more perspective on what this all means for the United Kingdom, we're going to go now to John Peet. He is Brexit editor at The Economist magazine, and he's with us from London.

Good morning.

JOHN PEET: Good morning.

KING: Is it any clearer, in light of this victory today, when and if and how the United Kingdom is going to leave the European Union?

PEET: No, I don't think it is any clearer.

KING: No.

PEET: I mean, what is clear is that voters are dissatisfied. They're dissatisfied with the ruling Conservative government, which is - from which the prime minister has just resigned. But they're also dissatisfied with the Labour opposition. And they're not quite sure what they're voting for other than to be grumpy and vote against both the main opposition and the government.

KING: And that would be, I imagine, some other smaller parties, including - the Green Party did well as well. It was not just the Brexit Party. You just heard Belinda de Lucy. Her party won 29 seats. It's too new to have any seats in the British Parliament yet. Do you think it has any clout, any power? You heard her say, we want to get in there to get out of there, essentially. How likely is that?

PEET: I don't think it's going to have any power over the Brexit negotiations, which are just stuck at the moment. And they are going to be handled by the current government when we get a new prime minister. And I would expect them to stay stuck for quite a long time.

What the Brexit Party and the success they had in this election will do is have a big influence on who becomes the next leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister. And I think it will drive that person towards a harder line and possibly towards embracing the idea of just walking out with no deal.

KING: Well, that leads to my next question, which is what this means for the traditional system in the U.K. Do you think this is a reckoning moment? Or do you think this is a restructuring?

PEET: This is going to have ramifications for quite a long time to come.

KING: Yeah.

PEET: If we can't sort out Brexit - and I think that's very difficult to do because compromise is not an easy thing to reach when you've got one extreme saying, let's walk out with no deal and another extreme saying, what we want is another referendum - then I think the Brexit Party will be around. And I think the Liberal Democrats and the Greens will be around. And the consequence will be a growing fragmentation of politics in Britain that will make - whenever the next election is held, the odds are that no party will win. And we will have a difficulty forming a government.

KING: You've thought about this deeply and for a long time. Could anything get Brexit unstuck at this point?

PEET: Well, I do think that the odds are quite high that, when we go back to Brussels with a new prime minister, the deal doesn't change. It still can't get through Parliament - that we may well end up saying, the only way to resolve this is, indeed, to have another referendum. When that will be, I'm not sure. But I think that we are heading in that direction.

KING: John Peet is the Brexit editor at The Economist magazine.

Mr. Peet, thanks so much for your time.

PEET: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.