Politics

British Consul General Karen Bell, UK Referendum On European Union Membership

The deadline for British subjects living in Texas to register to vote in the EU referendum is June 7.

Karen Bell
Karen Bell, British Consul General in Houston

On June 23, British voters will go the polls to decide whether or not the United Kingdom will remain in the European Union. There are roughly 70,000 British subjects in Texas, more than half of them concentrated in the Houston area. They have until June 7 to register online in order to cast their vote in the referendum by proxy.

News 88.7 Politics and Government Reporter Andrew Schneider spoke with Karen Bell, the UK’s consul general in Houston, about what’s at stake in the referendum.

 

Interview Highlights:

What sort of questions are you receiving about the referendum from British subjects in Texas?

“A lot of people want to understand what the economic benefits to remaining in the EU are, and we’re very clear that it’s about our having an opportunity to influence the operations of the European Single Market while staying outside the euro zone…The governor of the Bank of England has made the point that us remaining in the EU really contributes to the dynamism of the UK economy, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, our finance minister, has also made the point that…a vote to leave could, over the long run, cause our GDP to shrink by as much as 6 percent.”

 

If the majority vote is “Yes, Britain should remain in the EU,” does this settle the question, or could we see another referendum somewhere down the line?

“Well, certainly our hope is that this will settle the question for a generation. The last time Brits had an opportunity to vote on our EU membership was in 1975…and that means there are generations of voters who’ve never had an opportunity to have their say on our membership…And of course even for those people who did have an opportunity to vote in 1975, an awful lot’s changed. I mean, the EU has grown beyond all imagination in the intervening 40 years.”

 

And if the majority vote is “No,” what would happen next?

“It’s actually pretty binary…Something called Article 50 of the EU Treaties is triggered, and that immediately starts a two-year countdown clock, by the end of which, if we haven’t completed the terms of negotiations of our exit, exit’s automatic. All 28 EU member states would have to agree to an extension to that two-year period.”

 

Apart from the British expats who live here, what’s at stake for Texas in the outcome of this referendum?

“We’ve got a hugely important trade and investment relationship here in Texas… And some of the people who have investments in the UK are…wondering about what the UK referendum means for their interests… Notwithstanding all of those powerful arguments why a remain vote is overwhelmingly in our interest, there are a lot of other reasons why investors should and are putting their money into the UK…We have a highly skilled workforce…The World Bank last year said we actually overtook the U.S. as the leading G7 country for ease of doing business, and none of that’s going to change, irrespective of what happens on the 23rd of June.”

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Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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