Britons in France divided on Brexit
As the "Leave” or "Remain” campaigns fight neck and neck in the polls, Britons in France weigh in on whether the U.K. should remain in the EU - just one day before an historic referendum on the issue.

U.K. citizens who live abroad have been casting absentee ballots over the past three week. Their votes will be counted after the polls close across the country on Thursday night.

The British community in France is estimated at approximately 400,000. Some have chosen to vote by postal, some by proxy.

The official campaign from Britain to leave the EU, Leave, argues that an exit will allow Britons to "take back control and … spend our money on our priorities.”

The Stronger In campaign to stay contends that "Britain is stronger, safer and better off in Europe than we would be out on our own.”

Anadolu Agency spoke to Britons living in France about which side of the fence they were on.

- For Brexit: to preserve the island's culture

Although she is not eligible to vote, 57-year-old Fiona T has lived in France for 35 years. The personal assistant in civil service said her hypothetical vote would be a resounding leave.

Her view is informed by her memory of how EU quotas destroyed the fishing industry in northeast Scotland where she grew up.

"I am appalled at the vast funds the taxpayer has to spend to prop up the cash cow that is Brussels and the non elected people who run it mainly for their own financial gain,” Fiona said.

She also voiced worries about immigration and its negative influence on British society. "As the daughter of a World War II veteran who fought against fascism, I am very worried about immigration and how we are being forced to change our way of life,” she said.

"There is a primary school in Scotland which doesn't have a single Scottish child on the register. Why should economic migrants and false asylum seekers jump the housing and benefits queues when hard working taxpayers are pushed further down?,” she asked rhetorically. "Integration is not happening and I fear for the future,” she said.

Fiona added that she is "not anti immigration” as she herself is an immigrant, "but I have always worked, never taken anything from the state system of my adopted country and certainly do not demand that changes are made to take into account my beliefs and way of life.”

The quinquagenarian said she has no fear of a Brexit -- she has a residency card so effects to her would be minimal, if any. But if a majority of voters think like she does, the outcome might affect her children "if they wish to study in Scotland and they would have to pay fees which currently are waived for EU students.

"In summary I am from an island and want my island's culture and ways of life to be preserved, " she said.

- Against: EU is meant to improve lives

James R, 36, a PostDoc researcher at the Climate and Environment Sciences Laboratory, or LSCE, complains that despite the U.K. being a member of the EU, formalities for Britons when they begin working in France "were rather more bureaucratic and complicated than they would be for a citizen from another EU state who wanted to come to live and work in the UK."

In case of a Brexit and James wanted to continue to work in France, formalities would be harder and he would need an employment visa. As a result, James voted to remain, hoping the EU would commit "to making its institutions more accessible and transparent.”

There "is a perception amongst a lot of British people that the U.K. has given a lot more to the European project than the benefits it receives,” he said.

"A lot of this is based on misinformation in the British media, but the EU can do more to prove that it is not dominated by business interests and lobbyists,” James said.

”I think a lot of people, not just in the U.K. but in countries such as Greece, need convincing that the EU is meant to improve people's lives,” he added.

Against: for EU solidarity

Jamie, a 30-year-old an entrepreneur who came to France three years ago, said he voted to remain in the EU.

"Since the decision went to a referendum, I voted to stay because I feel solidarity is better than division in Europe and the world,” he said. "However, I'm not sure myself or the British public can adequately predict the economic and political ramifications of this vote."

Yet, Jamie was optimistic about the day when "Britain will vote unanimously to remain.

"I will stay in Europe and hopefully we'll all drink a fair amount of tea to celebrate,” he said.

- Against: for the sake of the next generation

Sonia, 32, said she found arguments in both camps "full of holes, and there’s just lots of scaremongering going on.”

She said she voted for staying in the EU for two reasons.

"There is no concrete proof that the U.K. will be better off leaving. It would have been nice if there was some pre-arranged agreement of trade treaties in place for example,” she said. "Instead nothing has been agreed in advance so the UK will have to try and negotiate new deals with people who are not happy they left, and will give them no doubt worse deals.”

Sonia would like the next generation of U.K. citizens to have the same opportunity as she does "to live and work in the EU easily, to experience the different cultures,” she said.

Brexit: Not a selfish decision

Alison, 28, a PostDoc researcher who still yet undecided on the issue, criticized the "ugly” campaigns and "people on both sides have been so polarized that they are insulting each other instead of having a reasonable debate ... It's very hostile,” she said.

"For me personally, I'm in a very strange situation that I don't find myself in one camp or the other,” the young researcher said.

"Obviously I abhor the racist and xenophobic arguments of the major leave campaign, but there are large aspects of the way that the EU was built which greatly benefits large businesses and allows for the exploitation of workers, so I don't know if I can easily vote in favor of it.”

She went on saying: "This is hard, because as a scientist I know personally I [and my research] benefit greatly from the EU and it could significantly affect my job prospects long term if we were to leave. But, I wasn't brought up to only vote on how something affects me, but to look at the situation as a whole, and especially those who have less of a voice.”

There was a hint of desperation in Alison’s voice as she ended the interview. "It's a huge decision … there is a lot of uncertainty ... and I honestly don't know how I will vote, yet,” she said.

Last Modified: 2016-06-22 18:23:31
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