Why residents of a busy UK port are eager for Brexit

Why residents of a busy UK port are eager for Brexit
By Damon Embling
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Residents of Southampton voted to leave EU


While the politicians battle it out in the corridors of power, their debate is being echoed in conversations up and down the UK. In the latest of a series of reports in the run up to this weekend' summit, Damon Embling has been hearing from people in the southern port of Southampton.

Southampton is home to the UK’s busiest cruise terminal and one of the largest container ports. It has strong European and international links. But it’s also a city that wants out of the EU. In the 2016 referendum, almost 54 percent of voters went for Brexit. Why? And what do people make of the deal that Theresa May now has on the table?”

Emma Janes runs a dog grooming parlour in Southampton. Being in the EU didn’t cut it for her. She voted leave.

“Well I think it’s all a bit of a joke at the moment,” she says. “So, I was for it, but I don’t really know what they’ll do, where it will end up. But fair play to Theresa May for staying and trying.”

Southampton is a diverse city – with some areas having been ranked among the most deprived in England.

Eighty-two-year-old John McAllen has lived here for more than six decades.

Like many other leave voters, he wants immigration to change.

“EU citizens obviously if they’re coming for holiday, we’re most happy to see them. If EU citizens bring in particular skills, yes, we’re very happy to see them. If EU citizens come in and undercut our workers here, we’re not happy to see them. And I think that’s been something of the problem.”

But do people here in Southampton – and other Brexit heartlands for that matter – hate the EU, or is this a protest vote over quality of life?

Gavin Midgley, University of Southampton, says: “There’s been an influx in immigration within the city, particularly with the students and the young people as well. And that’s coincided with the decline in the traditional industries, at the dockyards etc. Also, Southampton has been hit by the global recession and austerity and I think this has just led to the dissatisfaction and disillusionment of the current situation.”

Southampton wants Brexit, but it’s not coming as fast as it hoped – with choppy waters still forecast ahead.

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