Brexit in Beaconsfield: ‘My wife has to calm me down, I get so angry’
Many people in quaint Buckinghamshire town unconcerned with Westminster drama
It’s not just leave voters who are angry in different parts of the UK. An anti-Brexit campaigner holds a placard calling for national unity outside the Houses of Parliament in London, England. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images
The town of Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire is the resting place of Edmund Burke and the birthplace of Terry Pratchett. The constituency is that of remain-voting Tory MP Dominic Grieve, but almost half of the people voted to leave. Some of these people are annoyed with their MP and local Tories are said to be trying to oust him from his seat, but most I speak to are unconcerned with the specifics of Westminster dramas.
Of all the places in the UK I’ve been over the past week Beaconsfield is the quaintest and the most affluent and also the one where people are most reluctant to give their full names or have their photographs taken.
Brigette Bellwood voted remain and says that over the last three years her family business has already been affected adversely. She studied international business and languages and has worked on the continent and written dissertations on the common market. She believes many people voted based on false promises but that leave voters still need to be respected. At a recent dinner party featuring both remain and leave voters a “flip-board” came out and they had a very calm, rational debate. “But I’m still a remainer,” she adds.
Sarah Hudson recently came back to the UK after decades in Australia. Her husband and her father both died in quick succession, she says, and she came back to explore her roots and then reconnected with “a childhood sweetheart”.
They voted 48 per cent to 52 per cent... If that was voting for a government, it’d mean a coalition, wouldn’t it?
She would have voted remain if she had been in the country. The UK has changed, she says. “There’s a lot of dissatisfaction . . . about immigration and jobs . . . There are bigger divides between the haves and have-nots here than in Australia.”
Many people I meet feel they don’t know enough to talk about Brexit. Retired shooting instructor Alan Rose didn’t vote. He thinks the decision was far too complicated. “They voted 48 per cent to 52 per cent,” he says. “If that was voting for a government, it’d mean a coalition, wouldn’t it?”
Carol White, who describes herself and a more reticent friend as “ladies who lunch”, voted to leave based on how much money the UK gave to the EU. She did not expect the complexities that followed the vote. She’s a bit put out by her MP’s attempts to soften Brexit. That said, she thinks that she might vote remain herself if the opportunity came up again. “If you asked me tomorrow. I might say something different.”
Gary Roshier is manning a stall full of household goods at the market and he is similarly perplexed by the whole thing. “Brexit?” he says. “I didn’t really understand it. I still don’t understand it.”
The money we spend on the EU would be better spent in Britain . . . I want my MPs to make decisions, not some prat in Brussels
He voted remain but a lot of his older relatives voted to leave. For them the issue was immigration. Roshier also believes that immigration is an issue, but he simply doesn’t believe that leaving the EU is the solution and he believes that it might lead to financial hardship.
As we talk, we’re joined by Belfast-born Patrick Douglas a Tory party member who starts to recount his own problems with the EU.
“It’s a failing system. CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) is a disaster that suits small French farms, not Britain. The money we spend on the EU would be better spent in Britain . . . I want my MPs to make decisions, not some prat in Brussels.”
He thinks the various objections put up by the EU and the Irish Government are ridiculous. The Irish Border problem, he says, can be solved “technologically”.
So why has the whole Brexit process been so difficult? “You’ve got a political elite who don’t listen to the voters.”
He’s very upset with Dominic Grieve. There’s reportedly a contentious AGM of the local party planned for this Friday but Douglas will say nothing about that.
“They’re now pushing people to extremes because democracy has failed,” he says. “My wife has to calm me down I get so angry.”
It’s not just leave voters who are angry. At a nearby vegetable stall a remain voter called Christopher says he doesn’t want another referendum purely because he wants, “to see all the silly bastards who wanted to go out suffer for it”.
The radio had been saying that remain had it, so I thought that I’d have a little protest vote
This anger is like background radiation in the UK right now. A woman called Candy prefers not to give her full name because “I don’t want to be sent hate mail”. She had intended to vote to leave three years ago but a tree on the train-tracks meant that she missed the polls. “When I heard the results,” she says, “I was relieved I hadn’t voted.”
She didn’t really want to leave the EU, she explains, and she would vote remain if given another chance. “The radio had been saying that remain had it, so I thought that I’d have a little protest vote.”
“Eastern European immigration,” she says. It’s why lots of people voted leave, she says, but for the most part they weren’t looking at the bigger picture. If they were, she says, things would have gone differently.
“Nobody votes to be poorer.”