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In down-at-heel east London, Brexit mood prevails

3 min
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London (AFP)

Citing uncontrolled migration and a desire for independence from Brussels, several voters in the working-class borough of Havering in east London said they wanted Britain out of the EU for good.

"I'm going to feel British again," said Diane Booth, a softly-spoken 69-year-old pensioner, adding that she wanted Britain to be self-sufficient so it did not have to rely on European food imports.

"We can't support ourselves and I think we should be able to. I think we've got enough here... We've got pigs in this country, we've got chicken in this country!

"My son lives in Germany. He is quite happy there. We do clash," said Booth, a former public-sector worker.

A poll by YouGov this year ranked Havering as the most eurosceptic part of Britain and local councillors held a symbolic vote in January to leave the EU -- the first such local government motion.

- 'Gonna be better' -

Not all local residents share their view, like 47-year-old Kate Garnham, a brand manager, who said leaving the EU would be "awful".

"People have been too sceptical about what the 'Remain' campaign has to say," she said, adding that the rival claims had been "very confusing".

Emma, a 19-year-old student in mental health nursing, agreed saying she was "sick with all the propaganda".

But she said she supported a "Leave" vote so that Britain would not have to be governed by EU regulations on medicines.

"It's gonna be better for us... There is so many medications that we can't have because of them, because of the red tape," she said.

Joan, a woman in her 50s, also said she was planning to vote "Leave" as a way of reining in "uncontrolled immigration" from other parts of the EU.

"We'll be the first to leave and I think the other European countries will leave after this," she said, as she arrived to cast her ballot.

"Leave" supporters have focused their campaign on immigration, particularly the large number of eastern and southern European workers who have arrived in the country in recent years, putting pressure on public services and wages in areas of the country.

That message has resonated well beyond Havering.

"The issue that matters is immigration," said 69-year-old retiree Barry Martin outside a polling station in Biggin Hill, a southern suburb of London, where top Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage also voted.

"They seem to be open borders and at the moment (Prime Minister David) Cameron doesn't seem to be able to cope with it.

"They're just coming in willy nilly. You see it in the papers everyday, they’re getting on lorries, coming over from Calais," he said.

Lesley Syer, a 74-year-old pensioner, agreed saying: "Where are we going to put all these people?"

"I’m not racist, but it’s a small island and nobody ever says we’re that small," she said.

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