'Day Of The Jackal' Writer Will Vote For Britain To Leave The EU
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Voters in Great Britain cast their ballots Thursday on whether or not to stay in the European Union. Many Brits want to remain part of the EU bloc for economic and cultural reasons. Others, though, are fed up with regulations imposed by European bureaucrats. And they just don't think the economic benefits are real. One voice in that camp is Frederick Forsyth. He's the author of "The Day Of The Jackal," "The Odessa File" and many other classic thriller novels. He talked with our colleague Steve Inskeep about why he is planning to vote to quit the EU.
FREDERICK FORSYTH: I've been skeptical of it for some years. And that skepticism has now morphed into outright opposition due to, I think, what I regard as the arrogance and the wastefulness and the corruption and the incompetence of the Brussels government.
STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Do you not have a vote on European leaders? You vote for a European Parliament, don't you?
FORSYTH: There is a European Parliament. But it is very much a tame parliament - in other words, what I call bought and paid for.
INSKEEP: By whom?
FORSYTH: It is not a law-creating Parliament like your Congress, nor, indeed, our House of Commons. It's an endorsing body that endorses the findings, decisions of the bureaucratic committee called the Commission.
INSKEEP: So do you feel you're being ruled by some outside force or simply by mindless technocrats? I mean, who's the enemy here?
FORSYTH: Well, the enemy, I think, is a system. I'm going to tell you a very short anecdote. Some years ago, I was standing on the edge of a graveyard in a little town in Pennsylvania, which you may have heard of. It's called Gettysburg. And the reason I was there was I was standing in exactly the same spot where the greatest of all the presidents once stood on the 19 of November, 1863, and gave vent to the Gettysburg declaration, which echoes down the centuries.
INSKEEP: Sure, Lincoln.
FORSYTH: A hundred and fifty years later, it's pretty damn apposite now. He said that he asked those listening to him to dedicate themselves to a concept that government of the people, by the people and for the people should not perish from the earth. Well, it's perishing here in Europe.
INSKEEP: It is so interesting that you choose Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" to support your argument because, as you probably know, Lincoln was in the middle of a civil war in which he was fighting to make sure that the United States - the Union - did not come apart. I'm not sure if he would have been on your side of the argument here.
FORSYTH: (Laughter) I don't think, however, he intended to rule the United States the way Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker likes to rule Europe, which is by mandated decree from on high. That wasn't quite the democratic way, I think, that Abraham Lincoln had in mind.
INSKEEP: Why don't you identify who Jean-Claude Juncker is for Americans.
FORSYTH: Yeah, he's the president of the European Commission, which is virtually the politburo that governs the European Union from its central governmental headquarters in Brussels.
INSKEEP: Many people have warned that Britain's economy will suffer damage if you leave the EU. Are you comfortable with that?
FORSYTH: I'm perfectly comfortable for one reason. None of us have a crystal ball - not you, not President Obama, not me, not David Cameron. So when they say, in 10 years this will happen, they haven't a clue what they're talking about. They're just plucking figures out of a clear blue sky. And I think most of the British people now believe it to be rubbish.
We do not know what's going to happen in the future. All we do know is that there will be ups and downs, swings and roundabouts. There will be benefits and disadvantages whichever way we go, whether we go in - stay in, or come out.
INSKEEP: One other thing, Mr. Forsyth. What have you heard from friends, relatives, neighbors who feel differently than you do about this?
FORSYTH: It's strange. I mean, I go trying to take my lunch at the local pub, and there are guys grouped around the bar. And we're chatting - I haven't found a let's-stay-in advocate yet. OK, this is the south. The south of England is recorded to be more prosperous than the north. But what does seem to be happening is that the good, working-class people of the northern half of our country are also rebelling against being talked down to.
They don't like it. And all the let's-stay-in-no-matter-what-the-cost representatives appear to be guys riding the gravy train. These are the fat cats. When you see one sort of school of thought that's pretty unanimous, one gets suspicious. Why do I never see a farmer, a builder, a truck driver saying, I want to stay in? The working class don't seem to want it.
INSKEEP: I was just thinking, your description of the political discussion there is going to resonate for people here in the United States who've watched the rise of Donald Trump, who've watched the campaign of Bernie Sanders, who've followed this whole presidential election year here.
FORSYTH: But you don't have a candidate who wants you to be ruled out of Mexico City or Nicaragua.
FORSYTH: (Laughter) Sorry.
INSKEEP: Mr. Forsyth, thanks very much.
MARTIN: That was the author Frederick Forsyth in conversation with our own Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.