Residents living in an Essex neighbourhood have spoken about their “regret” of voting to leave the European Union (EU) seven years ago. One person said life has “gone downwards” since the vote whilst another said “it’s been a disaster”.
MyLondon recently paid a visit to Romford to see what they made of life post-Brexit and whether they would change their minds or not seven years on from the referendum. Romford has historically been known as part of Essex, but more recently they have been part of the London Borough of Havering and had the largest amount of leave voters when compared to other areas of the capital.
A total of 96,885 people voted to leave the EU whilst 42,201 wanted to see Britain stay integrated with their overseas neighbours. The majority of locals MyLondon spoke to on South Street in Romford admitted if they were given the chance again, they would change their minds.
READ MORE: EssexLive readers settle the debate over which areas belong to Essex and which belong to London
Barry Scott, 52, a paramedic, expressed his frustration in the Liberty shopping centre. He said: “My vote was a protest vote. I was fed up with the lies politicians tell us and why I voted to leave was during all the austerity and people needing to tighten their belts.
“I was really angry about that. I regret it now, I never in a million years thought we would leave – I was very shocked. Obviously it’s turned out to be the wrong decision. The social effect is we’ve gone downwards, people are more aggressive, they’re grumpy. And everybody’s struggling, the price of food has gone up. There also seems to be a big disparity.”
Asked if he thought staying in the EU would have made a difference, Mr Scott added: “I think things would be more stable. And as one friend put it to me, if you remain you’re at the table to discuss things. Outside you can’t do anything – that’s a fair point.”
Madonna Lang, 64, a retired reflexologist and massage therapist who used to work for the NHS, voted leave in 2016 because of the way the EU handles Greece’s debt crisis and afterwards “fighting a war without firing a bullet” by admitting nations that “couldn’t really afford” to. But now she thinks “the Government sold it [Brexit] incorrectly to lots of people”.
She added: “I’m horrified by the labelling of people who voted against the EU as being racist, it makes me really upset. I’m also really upset about the way people who are coming over in boats are being treated. It’s abhorrent, I can’t believe we’ve got a government that thinks it’s ok to treat migrants like that.”
Asked if she would vote in the same way again, Ms Lang added: “No, hopefully we won’t have a Conservative government. Please, God. You live and you learn, they never actually said how it would affect things like Northern Ireland, imports and exports. And they didn’t say how it would affect the farming community, everything was London based.”
Terry Howard, 72, a former civil servant, was relaxing with a newspaper on a bench. He said: “Things have got worse, it’s been a disaster. I didn’t vote, they sent me the wrong form and I was about to go on holiday. I would’ve voted to stay.”
Some leave voters are less likely to change tact. Gloria Thompson who was picking up her granddaughter, said: “I’m glad I voted for Brexit, but everything we voted for doesn’t seem to have taken place.”
Asked quickly if she would vote the same way today, she added: “I think so, but I’ve just become a bit disillusioned with it all. I’d have to have a serious think about it.”
READ MORE: Has Brexit caused more problems than it was supposed to solve?
Darius Safir, 57, manager of the Gabetti suit shop for two years, said: “I voted Brexit. Maybe in four, five years, six years we’re going to come out of the problems.
“The economy comes down, but I think in six or seven years it will come back again, more powerful. I’ve seen lots of different countries to compare [the UK] to. Greece is gone, it all belongs to Germany and they owe lots of money.
“I think the idea was England first, the idea was England. It was a good ring to come out, but it takes time to get back on track.” Asked if he would stick to his guns and vote the same again, Mr Safir said: “It depends, I’d give it three years extra to see what they’re doing, but I’m optimistic.”
Those who voted to remain in 2016 also seemed to have dug in further. Sue Ellen, 67, who is a retired midwife assistant, lives in Dagenham but on this particular day she was enjoying a coffee at a cafe in South Street with friends.
She said: “I think we should have stayed anyway, I voted to stay. But I don’t really take much notice of it – I just think we should’ve stayed. But it wouldn’t have made any difference to the price rises or anything.
“We would still be in the same situation. I may be wrong, I don’t really know. In or out, it would have been the same. At the time I got a bit angry. People didn’t understand what they were voting for, they were all out at the polling station but I don’t think half of them knew what they were voting for.”
Mimi, 73, who did not want to give her surname, used to work in finance. She said: “It’s total rubbish, it should never have happened. It’s c*** because it hasn’t done the country any good.
“People were stupid and just thought of England pride. That’s fine, I have pride, but not at the expense of the country. I voted to stay and I think 80% of the people who voted Leave regret it but only around 20% of those would admit it. The other people are clueless, they have no idea. It’s just bravado.”
Maria Issa, 60, originally from Romania, was visiting her son in Romford, a doctor, for a week and now lives in Damascus in Syria. Enjoying a coffee at a cafe on a table next to Sue and Mary, she had clear opinions about the UK’s future.
On Brexit, she said: “It’s very good I’m from Romania, I know what happened. Europe I don’t like. I feel like for the English it’s very good, Brexit. England is a beautiful country, they don’t need Europe, I think.”