StokeonTrent, United Kingdom, Oct 2 (AFP/APP):”Brexit is giving us a headache!” said Carl Wilson, who, like many in Brexit-backing Stoke-on-Trent, has had enough of the wrangling and just wants it over and done with.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is vowing to take Britain out of the EU on October 31 — with or without a divorce deal — is far from a unifying figure in the English Midlands city.
In The White Star pub, where Wilson was sat, the general manager Dave Robson said: “Three years ago there was a referendum and the majority of the country voted to leave the European Union.
“And then some three years on, we’re still arguing about it,” the 50-year-old told AFP.
Customer Dave Hill added: “We have to respect the result.”
He was one of the 31 percent in Stoke who backed staying in the EU — because, he reasoned, “it’s better to keep your enemies close”.
Johnson came to power in late July, promising to deliver Brexit by its twice-postponed due date.
He insists he will not delay Brexit again — as he has repeatedly stressed at his Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester, northwest England — despite a law being passed requiring him to do so if a deal cannot be reached by October 19.
Opposition MPs who rushed the law through in early September, supported by some rebel Conservatives, fear that a “no deal” exit will plunge Britain into economic chaos.
– Trump comparison –
Delaying Brexit, or trying to overturn it through a new referendum, “would just drag the process on even further”, said Robson.
“If it works, it works,” he said of Brexit.
“If it doesn’t, that’s life. That’s the way it is.”
Among Britain’s major cities, Stoke-on-Trent had the highest Leave vote in the 2016 EU membership referendum at 69 percent — well above the UK-wide figure of 52 percent.
But if the desire to move on from Brexit dominates, Johnson’s larger-than-life character divides people in Stoke.
Known throughout the world for its pottery and ceramics, Stoke has historically been a stronghold of the main opposition Labour Party.
Butcher Graham Fenton, 70, said “Boris, definitely Boris” was the right person to lead Britain out of the Brexit fog.
“He’s got a good personality, He suits the part. He’s a bit like Trump in America: he gets things done, hopefully.”
– ‘Womaniser’ –
Susan Hood, 69, who has retired from working in retail and has lived in Stoke all her life, said Johnson “seems as always the one who wants to do it at any cost.
“I don’t like him for how he lives his personal life… he’s a womaniser and I don’t think he’s the right person to run the country because of his values.”
However, “it doesn’t matter if he gets the job done”.
She would not vote for the Conservatives if an early general election comes, as seems likely in the coming months as a way to break the deadlock in parliament.
Johnson, running a minority administration, has twice tried to invoke an election but opposition parties are reluctant to hold one just yet, seeking to ensure that a no-deal Brexit is ruled out first.
Hood said: “I’d vote for the Liberal Democrats” — the party devoted to annulling Brexit altogether — “or not at all”.
Like many, she said she was struggling to keep track of the twists and turns of Brexit.
For Kay Lewis, who runs a shop selling tea sets and trinkets, the Conservatives’ party conference pledges to invest heavily in public services are empty words, and all politicians are much of a muchness.
“I voted out but I wish I’d voted in because we were told a pack of lies, not just by one party but all of them,” she said.
And as for Brexit now, “I’m fed up with hearing about it”, she concluded.