Britons on Brexit: ‘We’re all proud to be British again’

Others lament ‘stupidness’ of poll: ‘It shouldn’t have come down to a cheap vote’

Ukip leader Nigel Farage  delivering an anti-EU speech ahead of the vote. Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images

Ukip leader Nigel Farage delivering an anti-EU speech ahead of the vote. Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images


In a butchers in Chingford at 6.55 in the morning, butcher Andrew Shaw is embracing retired school teacher Mike Burke.

“We did it,” he’s saying. “We bloody did it.”

They are passionate Leave supporters.

“We’re all in a bit of a dither here this morning,” explains Shaw when I introduce myself. “All excited.”

“Are we going to be on an IRA hit-list?” chuckles his colleague Bill Machie as I scribble their names down in a notebook.

Why are they so happy? “We’re all proud to be British again,” says Shaw. “We’re tired of being pushed around.”

Burke was a local campaigner for Leave. He thinks the referendum was important because “we’ve been allowed to come out and say what we really feel about European immigration”.

They start to talk about what they perceive as the pressure on services caused by this.

We’re not xenophobic,” says Burke. “My dad came over from Ireland. ”

“And my great grandparents were Portuguese,” says Machie.

Outside at the nearby bus stop some Romanian women are waiting for a bus to take them to the dress factory where they work. They seem dejected. “I want to stay in,” says Anna Maria Dinu.

“This is bad for us, for England, for Europe, ” says her friend Andreea Iom.

“I live here,” says Dinu. “I’m resident here. So what happens next? I don’t know. I want a repeat.”

Another referendum?

“Is that possible?”

In a nearby café a young Belfast waiter named Ed Dunlop is says “I thought it would be a cert that we’d stay in.” Most of the people he knows in London were Remain voters, but when he reflects on it, there were signs. “I’ve had people come in who say to me ‘it’s nice to be served by a British person for a change’. . . it’s a bit heavy.”

‘Backwards step’

Why did he vote Remain? “I know the EU isn’t perfect but I’ve never known living in this country without being in the EU. I’d worry about losing access to the single market, and work regulations – employee rights.”

He’s also worried about the effects back home. “We’ve really made progress in the North of Ireland but now we’ll probably have to close the border. That’s a backward step.”

At the train station an NHS manager in a suit, who prefers not to be named, says “I think it’s a good thing. I think the unrestricted immigration of cheap labour from Eastern Europe has been bad for British workers. Companies don’t train up workers anymore they just import workers who are already trained. Now Britain can have as many immigrants as it chooses, but we choose.”

What about the predicted negative effects on the economy? “They’ve announced that the pound has fallen, but that will be good for British exports,” he says confidently.

Zara Davis, who works for a big construction company, is disappointed with the results. “To start off I was going to vote Leave,” she says. “But when I looked into it I could see all the ways it would benefit me to stay. Leaving could have a very negative affect on my industry.”

What now? “We’re a democracy,” she says. “It is what it is, you roll with the punches.”

Not everyone is excited or dejected. “I wanted out,” says Kaye, who’s waiting for the bus with her daughter Kayleigh. “But I just wanted a change really.”

A 74-year-old woman named Marian is walking her three loud dogs. “Shut up you!” she says sporadically to them as we talk. She voted Leave, “but I’m just confused really,” she says. “It was a last minute decision. I really haven’t a clue if it’s good or bad. Will it make it our little island again? I just don’t know.”

Chris Palmer is also walking a dog. He hasn’t heard about the referendum and when I tell him his face falls a little. “That surprises me,” he says. “It worries me.”

He thinks it’s partly based on a misunderstanding. “Immigration worries a lot of people even though they don’t understand all the good things they bring to this country. And they mix up immigrants and refugees.”

He also doesn’t feel that everyone was really voting on the European Union. “I think they were using it as a vote against austerity, the government and hard times. It was a protest vote.”

What does he think the outcome of it all will be? “It makes the future uncertain. And the divisions that have arisen from this debate are going to take long time to go away.”

I also break the news to a man named Winston Peters. “It’s stupidness,” he says shaking his head. “I think it’s David Cameron and Boris Johnson’s big scam. And Nigel Farage, he can’t even get elected, and he gets to trigger a referendum? It shouldn’t have come down to a cheap vote like that.”

He sighs. “The UK has never been on its own. It’s always been in Europe. Why leave your friends? We’re always going to be better with people.”