Frank Langfitt | KERA News

Frank Langfitt

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.

Langfitt arrived in London in June, 2016. A week later, the UK voted for Brexit. He's been busy ever since, covering the political battles over just how the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. Langfitt also frequently appears on the BBC, where he tries to explain American politics, which is not easy.

Previously, Langfitt spent five years as an NPR correspondent covering China. Based in Shanghai, he drove a free taxi around the city for a series on a changing China as seen through the eyes of ordinary people. As part of the series, Langfitt drove passengers back to the countryside for Chinese New Year and served as a wedding chauffeur. He has expanded his reporting into a book, The Shanghai Free Taxi: Journeys with the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China (Public Affairs, Hachette), which is out in June 2019.

While in China, Langfitt also reported on the government's infamous black jails — secret detention centers — as well as his own travails taking China's driver's test, which he failed three times.

Before moving to Shanghai, Langfitt was NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi. He reported from Sudan, covered the civil war in Somalia, and interviewed imprisoned Somali pirates, who insisted they were just misunderstood fishermen. During the Arab Spring, Langfitt covered the uprising and crushing of the reform movement in Bahrain.

Prior to Africa, Langfitt was NPR's labor correspondent based in Washington, DC. He covered the 2008 financial crisis, the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler, and coal mine disasters in West Virginia.

In 2008, Langfitt also covered the Beijing Olympics as a member of NPR's team, which won an Edward R. Murrow Award for sports reporting. Langfitt's print and visual journalism have also been honored by the Overseas Press Association and the White House News Photographers Association.

Before coming to NPR, Langfitt spent five years as a correspondent in Beijing for The Baltimore Sun, covering a swath of Asia from East Timor to the Khyber Pass.

Langfitt spent his early years in journalism stringing for the Philadelphia Inquirer and living in Hazard, Kentucky, where he covered the state's Appalachian coalfields for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Prior to becoming a reporter, Langfitt dug latrines in Mexico and drove a taxi in his hometown of Philadelphia. Langfitt is a graduate of Princeton and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.

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The European Union and the United Kingdom reached a new Brexit agreement on Thursday, and while it appeared to mark a big breakthrough in the years-long process, the saga doesn't end here.

The withdrawal deal still needs approval in both the U.K. and European parliaments. Although EU leaders unanimously endorsed it in Brussels on Thursday, it faces stiff opposition in Britain's Parliament, which has voted down three previous Brexit deals.

The U.K. is scheduled to leave the EU on Oct. 31.

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Now we're going to turn to NPR's London correspondent, Frank Langfitt, who was listening to our conversation with former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. Frank, thank you so much for listening and being here.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Michel.

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It has been another extraordinary day in British politics...

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Whose Parliament? Our Parliament. Whose Parliament? Our Parliament.

Frank Langfitt (@franklangfitt) is NPR's international correspondent in London and was previously based in Shanghai, China. His new book is The Shanghai Free Taxi.

The United Kingdom is headed for another showdown next month over Brexit, an issue that has paralyzed British politics for several years and ended the careers of the two previous prime ministers.

This year, Parliament thrice defeated a U.K. withdrawal agreement that then-Prime Minister Theresa May's government had negotiated with the European Union. Parliament reconvenes on Sept. 3.

Here are some of the key challenges facing Boris Johnson, the new prime minister, who has vowed to take the U.K. out of the European Union one way or another on Oct. 31.

Britain would face gridlock at ports; shortages of medicine, fuel and food; and a hard border with Ireland if it left the European Union with no deal, according to a leaked government document.

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At a time of polarization and political chaos, the United Kingdom and the United States are about to be led by two remarkably similar figures. On Tuesday, Britain's ruling Conservative Party elected Boris Johnson as their leader by an overwhelming margin, sending him to No. 10 Downing Street. He will take office on Wednesday.

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Boris Johnson is a larger-than-life British politician who likes to project the image of a bumbling, fun-loving man of the people.

His many supporters in Britain's Conservative Party find him charismatic, entertaining and — to their minds — refreshingly politically incorrect.

Many critics, however, see him as unprincipled, offensive and driven wholly by ambition.

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The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom may not feel very special at the moment. President Trump's three-day visit to the U.K. got off to a rocky start on Monday, when he launched a Twitter attack on London Mayor Sadiq Khan as Air Force One was preparing to land.

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When the United Kingdom voted for Brexit nearly three years ago, some thought it might mark the beginning of the end of the European Union. Some analysts warned the U.K. would be the first in a series of dominoes to fall and spoke of a possible "Frexit," "Nexit" and "Swexit."

Protesters demanding government action on climate change disrupted traffic and public transit around London on Wednesday, the third day of climate demonstrations in the capital.

"Are you angry?" yelled Will Grover, a councillor with Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party.

"Yes!" yelled back the mostly older crowd.

"You should be," said Grover, "because your voice, your vote, is being betrayed. They do not respect you. Why should you respect them?"

Brexit has convulsed the United Kingdom like no other political event in decades, but it can be hard to follow the day-to-day machinations. At the end of a chaotic week, here's what to know.

How different are things now for the U.K. than they were on Monday?

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The U.K. Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to delay Brexit beyond the country's planned exit date of March 29.

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Updated Thursday at 9:38 a.m. ET

This week marks a turning point for Britain and Brexit. On Tuesday, the British Parliament voted down Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan for the second time. On Wednesday, lawmakers voted against a "no-deal Brexit" — leaving the European Union without a formal agreement with Brussels.

Today, they will vote on whether to postpone Brexit beyond the scheduled departure date of March 29.

Here's what you need to know.

What happened on Tuesday?

The Packhorse pub sits in the tiny village of South Stoke in the west of England amid rolling hills dotted with sheep. For more than a century and a half, it played a crucial role in the village and marked milestones in the lives of local families.

Gerard Coles, who was born half a mile from the pub and now brews cider nearby, started coming to the Packhorse when he was 15 and underage, sometimes with his school teacher for lunch.

Valentine's Day is usually a boon for florists. But in the United Kingdom, a cloud hangs over the industry.

Rosa Ashby, who runs Rosa Flowers in the English market town of Witney, is anxious. Every flower in her shop, including lilies, chrysanthemums and lisianthus, is either grown in or distributed through the Netherlands. That has worked just fine since Ashby started her business 22 years ago, because the U.K. has been inside the European Union's single market, and flowers — and countless other products — have flowed seamlessly across the border.

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