The most-affected have the least say in EU polls

Jun 23, 2016, 08:18 IST | Ruhi Khan

While those who support Brexit blame immigrants for all that’s bad, the scared migrants have no other option than to be silent witnesses to something that would define their future

London: In the famous Speaker’s Corner in the iconic Hyde Park at the heart of London, Matthew Palmer, a Brexit supporter, is often seen telling stories of doom and mayhem caused by immigrants to those willing to listen. For years, immigrants from across the channel were considered Britain’s kith and kin but now UK through a referendum decides if it wants to honour that relationship or sever all ties. Palmer, a retiree, has been a passionate advocate for over 40 years of various causes that are "British".

Matthew Palmer convinces people for ‘Vote Leave’ at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park
Matthew Palmer convinces people for ‘Vote Leave’ at Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park

‘Aged out’
His toughest debaters — a group of youngsters who refuse to accept his stories. "You can’t stand there and tell people that apocalypse is coming if we stay in. You are asking people to make a decision that will affect our entire life on the basis of lies, lies and more lies," shouted Jacob Warringeytle, a 19-year-old British national with European parentage.

Jacob Warringeytle
Jacob Warringeytle

Mathew often got into verbal scuffles with youngsters like Jacob. "You don’t know anything. Shoo... go do your homework, read articles on your computer and come back," he said dismissing him.

Matthew’s main reason to support Brexit is, "sovereignty" he says. "These youngsters want to be in the EU as all they see are cheap flights to Spain."

Nicola, Ethan and Katie
Nicola, Ethan and Katie

18-year-old Nicola Azzopardi from Malta would have none of it. "All those who want Brexit are older, rigid people. It’s infuriating!" Nicola, who is studying drama at Mount View Theatre School in London, has a special right of voting in the referendum as Malta is also a part of the Commonwealth. A vote she promises to use wisely.

Ethan Hockley–Webster, a British student is furious with Palmer. "His views are so dated, it’s disgusting. People like him think we are fools who don’t understand anything."

"By shutting the doors to EU citizens we are also giving them an opportunity to shut us out of EU. We are artists, we need to travel, explore new avenues," said Katie Cresswell, another British student with family across EU.

While the debate has seen Brexit campaigners attach labels to EU nationals that often border on cruelty, the 2.5 million EU nationals in UK are nothing more than muted spectators without the right to vote, without the power to influence their fate.

In V/S Out

Stephen Pound,
MP from Ealing North
Being in the EU will give youngsters more access to the world. It will provide opportunities that the young in this country need to explore and grow," he said. "It’s hogwash that EU migrants come here for benefits

Bob Blackman,
MP from Harrow East
Classifying EU students as foreign students gives British students more access to home funding and international students from the rest of the world a more competitive level playing field. Youngsters in UK should vote for Brexit to secure their future

Opportunity at risk
Thousands of students cross the border to gain education in UK. Elena-Stefania Manghiuc, an 18-year-old, came from Romania to UK in August last year hoping to one day join the gaming sector in the UK. "I love sketching, creating figures, creating characters for games," she says.  She is applying for fine arts this September and is worried how this will affect her. "What do you think will happen?" she asks me nervously. "I don’t think I can pay international fees and what will my future be if I can’t work here? I want to work here. I can’t go back to Romania. People like me can only be a teacher there, not a gaming artist," she said.  

Elena-Stefania Manghiuc

Economic migrant
No one knows economic migration better than the youngsters from EU. Luciano Karikari (21) came from Italy in 2014. He barely spoke English and went he did his heavy accent made it incomprehensible. "I used the government programme that offers immigrants free English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses," said Luciano. "ESOL class helped me with my articulation of words which was my biggest difficulty." Soon Luciano found a job in a luxury hotel in Central London as a housekeeper. "I’m now working as a night cleaner. I make decent money, have settled in UK and am thinking of how I can progress in my job. Someday I want to be a manager here." A deep frown soon replaces his smile. "Do you think we will have to leave the UK? I don’t want to."

Threat to jobs
Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London and the face of the Brexit campaign, believes the EU migrants have taken Brit jobs and pulled wages down. Others in his camp have accused them to being a drain on the welfare. "The European workers are living here, earning and paying taxes and doing jobs that British workers don’t want to do," said Gareth Bell, a British-born economic student at Birbeck College. "European immigrants have contributed 20 billion pounds over what they have taken in welfare. You can’t say they are taking our jobs and our welfare. It has to be one thing or the other." Gareth is out handling leaflets and stickers urging people to vote Remain. "My friends from EU are very nervous and no one understands why we need this referendum in the first place."

Bro against Brexit
Jo Johnson, Minister of Universities and Sciences has a contrasting view from his brother Boris. He has written an open letter to students. "On the ballot paper on Thursday is an existential question about the life chances and job prospects of a whole generation – your generation," he wrote.

Jo Johnson. Pic/AFP

He linked UK’s success as a prosperous knowledge economy to partnerships with the EU. "This referendum is potentially more significant than any career fair or graduate recruitment programme you might consider this year. The decision will affect your life chances for years to come," he writes urging students to vote Remain. 

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