In A British Town Full Of EU Workers, Brexit Vote Brings Uncertainty : Parallels Crawley, which voted to leave the EU, has attracted many workers from EU countries seeking jobs at nearby Gatwick Airport. "We just want it to go back to the way it was before," says a resident.
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In A British Town Full Of EU Workers, Brexit Vote Brings Uncertainty

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In A British Town Full Of EU Workers, Brexit Vote Brings Uncertainty

In A British Town Full Of EU Workers, Brexit Vote Brings Uncertainty

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

In Britain, the vote to leave the European Union was strongest in traditionally working-class areas. For some people, it was backlash against globalization. For other people, it was a protest vote. Lauren Frayer went to a community that voted overwhelmingly to leave to see how residents there are feeling now.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: A half hour by train south of London, Crawley has been here since Roman times. It grew after World War II, absorbing people from bombed-out parts of the capital. The census says Crawley has about a hundred thousand residents, mostly white and British-born. But when I visited...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing in Italian).

FRAYER: ...There was a busker singing in Italian. Passersby were speaking Polish, Bulgarian and Romanian, all foreigners who couldn't vote in the EU referendum anyway. At Crawley's 13th century church, where seagulls swoop and land on centuries-old headstones, I finally find an elderly Englishman Iain Davey. He thinks leave voters like him have been vilified since the Brexit vote.

IAIN DAVEY: They are blaming me because I'm over 65. They said, you condemned our grandchildren and our children to poverty. What's happening in Europe? Young Spaniards, young Greeks, young Italians - where are they coming? They're coming here. Why are they coming here - because they see where the jobs are.

FRAYER: Crawley has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Britain. Many of the jobs are at nearby Gatwick Airport. Davey himself used to work there in a solid union job, he says, on which he supported a family. Now foreigners are coming in to work for low-cost airlines.

DAVEY: The money they've been offered is so much better than, like, say, in Bulgaria or Romania or something like that, but it's less than what people - ordinary people here trying to pay their bills and educate their children. They found it impossible to work at those sort of wages.

FRAYER: They feel like globalization may have helped many, but it's hurt them. After the Church of England service, Romanian Orthodox worshippers file in.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in Latin).

FRAYER: Across the square, Peter Field, a retired airport chauffeur, chats with friends in front of a pound shop, the British equivalent of the dollar store. They say they have no regrets about the way they voted.

PETER FIELD: The great in Britain is gone, and we need to get back. And the amount the government is spending on foreigners coming into this country and looking after them and not looking after their own people is wrong.

FRAYER: But data show that immigrants to the U.K. draw less government benefits on average than people born here. Teresa de Nobrega is a Portuguese immigrant, a single mom who's lived in Crawley for 20 years and works at a local insurance company.

TERESA DE NOBREGA: And I must say, the day after the votes and I was going into work, I felt awful. I felt unwanted. It was a really horrible feeling.

FRAYER: She says far-right anti-immigrant groups have turned her English neighbors against her. And then she calls them lazy if they won't work for the wages she's willing to take.

DE NOBREGA: I don't want to be unfair to the English people, but I just think sometimes you just work, and you get on with it. And if you can't, you make do with less.

FRAYER: The terms of Brexit still have to be negotiated. That will take years. Meanwhile uncertainty and some share of resentment are likely to persist here for locals and European newcomers alike. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Crawley, England.

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