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CNBC Transcript: First On Interview with Matthew Elliot, CEO of Vote Leave

Following are excerpts from a Worldwide Exchange interview by Wilfred Frost and Sara Eisen, with Matthew Elliot, CEO of Vote Leave, from CNBC's London Lambeth studio.

WF: Thank you for joining us, and congratulations, an extraordinary victory you engineered last week, let's first of all touch on how you did engineer that, what was the key message you managed to get across that resonated with people?

ME: The key message was one of 'taking back control', that's our slogan, 'take back control', so the big issue was all about sovereignty, where should decisions be made? Over the river in parliament, or in Brussels, and voters decided they want decisions made in parliament.

WF: Of course, there are a lot of questions now, over the weekend, on what happens next, when does Britain formally leave, in your eyes, what is that process?

ME: I don't think we need to rush this process, during the campaign there was talk about triggering article 50 and its process of leaving the EU right away, literally Friday morning, and I think quite rightly the PM has paused on that which allows the dust to settle, allows people to go away on holiday, have some informal discussions about it, and then think about it come September/October time.

SE: Are you worried about the pretty violent market reaction we've seen in the wake of the vote?

ME: I think it was slightly to be expected on Friday, it actually was slightly exaggerated in that the pound had climbed on Thursday to a high, because people thought there would be a remain vote, so some of the fall was because of the fall from the artificial high. I actually think that the markets, now that they see a decision has been made, and once they start seeing the plan, they've heard from the Chancellor George Osborne this morning, the government has been doing contingency planning, they'll hear from the Prime Minister this afternoon in parliament, once they understand there's a plan in place, that'll reduce some of the uncertainty.

SE: Is there a plan?

ME: There very much is a plan. This has been a long term debate, not a rushed decision for the UK, where we feel that essentially our future doesn't lie with what is a failing Eurozone, but lies with the wider world, being a free trade nation, working with countries right across the world and not being an insular nation.

WF: So do you and perhaps Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, have a specific plan that you will now take to European Union leaders, whether it's in one month or three months to get in to action, and does that actually require Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister for your plan to hold any weight at all?

ME: Well it must be understood that Vote Leave, of course, was a referendum campaign group, who weren't an opposition political party, and as you touch on, there's now a process of having a new leader for the Conservative Party, I hope that whoever that new leader is will make sure that they consult with Vote Leave, because we have done lots of detailed planning, and actually think that far sooner than the elections, it could take several months, it could be a two or three month process, I hope the Prime Minister appoints someone to actually head up this whole negotiation. Lots of people in London today talking about making Michael Gove, Foreign Secretary, he was one of the key people at Vote Leave, a very, very bright man, thought a lot about this, did lots of speeches on what the plan could look like, so I think he's probably the man to lead the negotiations.

WF: Should Nigel Farage have a role in negotiations?

ME: This is very much a win for Vote Leave, Vote Leave didn't include UKIP as a campaign, we were cross party, we had UKIP representatives, but we involved the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens… I think Nigel Farage has played a role getting the referendum, but I think now the actual process of negotiation needs to be done by people from the governing party, from the Conservative Party.

WF: Who are going to be the key people your side has to negotiate with now? Because Mr. Junker says you have to start immediately – What do you make of that? Will you seek discussions with him or is it more like discussions with Angela Merkel?

ME: I see several people questioning Junker's long term future now, saying he was one of the people that got us into this situation now by not giving us enough when we were in the negotiation process. I actually think Merkel is a much more substantial figure in this process. It's interesting that the German Chancellor was saying there shouldn't be a rush now to start the process and trigger article 50. We should all take a pause. See where the dust settles. Then start in the autumn.

SE: So it sounds like you're saying more time would be good. I mean, we've heard a lot about that lately. But even article 50, if its invoked, takes two years – What time process are you looking at for this Brexit process?

ME: Article 50 can take up to two years, it not a minimum time, it's a maximum time. So it could be done much quicker than that, it could be far sooner. Some people have said a natural breaking point would be the next European Parliament elections in 2018 – when also the Commission changes over – so, I think the details of the timetable, I'm hoping, will be unveiled later this year.

WE: Matthew, there has been talk over the weekend because of so called 'regrexit' that we could have a second referendum, that you mislead voters – what do you make of that?

ME: There's not going to be a second referendum. I think one of the key points of the referendum was that it was a very, very high turn out. We go over 17 million votes for leave. This is the biggest democratic mandate ever made, for any decision ever made in the UK. This is overwhelming support. As for the petition calling for a second referendum, I think the vast majority of those signatures came from overseas.

WF: If we just focus on one aspect of these accused lies or exaggerations that you made during the campaign – The claim that a vote to leave would mean 350 million pounds a week for the NHS. What do you think was a bigger lie or exaggeration? That, or Mr. Osborne's claim that there would be a Brexit budget?

ME: Our key point was always about taking back control…


WF: That was a key point, but still pinned to the top of your Twitter feed is the poster that says Britain will get 350 million more for the NHS…

ME: And, as a campaign group, we felt the NHS should have some more money. And should be getting the money we get back from the EU. Now, of course, it's up to Parliament to decide. That is the key point here. We elect our representatives to Parliament, they will decide what happens with the negotiation, they will decide what happens to the independence dividend from leaving the EU.

WF: Do you think some voters voted on the fact that they expected the NHS to get an extra 350 million pounds per week?

ME: I think that lots of voters heard that message, I hope the government take that into account…

WF: Was it an exaggeration?

ME: No, it wasn't, no.

WF: But it's not going to happen. Because the net amount that will come back is less…

ME: We have 350 million a week going to Brussels – actually its more than that, 367 million pounds a week. And it's growing with all the Eurozone bail outs coming down the line. So there will be plenty of money to go to farmers, scientists, and the NHS and other priorities.

WF: Let's just touch on one other issue if we may. We touched on the big fall out on financial markets. People's pensions have fallen significantly. There is a real sense of division and nervousness all around the country and there is a possibility of a collapse of the EU. Do feel responsible for any of those things?

ME: Next week, of course, is Independence Day in the States. Back in 1776 when the 13 colonies were thinking about what to do. No doubt there were people at that pointing who were saying, wont this cause a lot of chaos if we break away from the British empire. Isn't this the wrong choice. It won't cause havoc to our economy. It was the right decision for the UK to break away from the British empire. I think similarly, its right for the UK to break away from the EU. It's not serving our interests. It didn't reform when we asked it to reform. It's the right decision for the UK.

SE: Again though – this is CNBC and we have to come back to the markets and this is not at all what they are signaling. So many Wall Street firms are downgrading their forecasts for the British economy. So many businesses saying this is going to hurt investment and hiring. And it's going to be painful for this economy and the entire world.

ME: There are plenty of Wall Street firms and indeed British banks and what have you that said Britain should join the Euro back in the early 2000s. That would have clearly been the wrong decision for the UK, and similarly, I think were Britain to have stayed in the European Union, that also would have been the wrong decision. The EU is going in the wrong direction, the Eurozone is failing and we don't want to be a part of that.

SE: But the economy was better for the EU... The British economy was better inside the EU than it was before…

ME: The British economy was doing better because it wasn't inside the Eurozone. But I fear that had we stayed in, we would have been part of the EU as it collapses.

WF: Matthew, what's next for you? A role in the Johnson/Gove government?

ME: I don't know. I finished an epic campaign, it's been hard work, I think it's now time for a holiday.

WF: Epic is the right word. Do you think the fallout from this will be epic?

ME: I think thing will settle extremely quickly. You know, the UK is the 5th largest economy. It's a very strong economy. George Osborne made this clear in his statement this morning. We have very good long term prospects. I think lots of businesses' want to keep on doing business here. And I actually think once the plan is in place, once it's unveiled, starting off later today. Even more firms will pile in to invest in the UK.

WF: And my final point Matthew, lots of US viewers watching right now, you've just managed an extraordinary campaign victory, many saying the biggest coup in modern British times. Are there implications from this vote for the US presidential election in the US. And do you think Donald Trump can surprise people like you have here?

ME: I haven't been following the race very closely. One thing that I am pleased about was that when the final result came through President Obama made it clear that he wants to keep the strong relationship with the UK and I know that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump want to keep that too.


Sarah Whiteacre


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