London reacts to announcement of June Brexit EU referendum | News | DW | 20.02.2016
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London reacts to announcement of June Brexit EU referendum

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced the date for Britain's referendum on EU membership. But what do people in Britain think about the upcoming plebiscite on the Brexit? Sertan Sanderson reports from London.

It is sometimes difficult to remember that cosmopolitan London is the capital of Britain, rather than the nexus of the world.

Around Parliament - with Big Ben chiming in the background and double-decker buses overtaking black cabs - one is reminded, however, that in many ways London is as British as it gets.

I approach a young woman walking her dog outside the Houses of Parliament. When I tell her that DW would like her opinion on Britain's position in the European Union, she emphatically says, "Definitely Brexit!" and adds that I should send her best to Angela Merkel. I tell her that she has misjudged my relationship to the German chancellor, but she doesn't appear to care.

'Tough one, that'

Many Brits aren't so keen on the prospect of leaving the European Union. A fashion student by the name of Chloe says the main sticking point is immigration. She points with her head at an elderly woman playing the accordion on the corner of Whitehall and Westminster Bridge Road: "Those campaigning against the EU want to get rid of these kinds of people. I don't think she's any harm to anybody."

French tourist Celine Pavot says she was "surprised" to hear that EU membership is such a bone of contention in the United Kingdom. She says it would be difficult to imagine the EU without Britain in it, adding, however, that the UK has always been a bit "different" within the greater context of Europe.

The question of a potential Brexit is not only relevant to Brits but to many of the 8 million foreign-born people who have come to call the country their home. Mieling Abel, 39, says she came to the UK 15 years ago from South Africa. She has found it difficult to decide on a position as far as the Brexit goes.

"I don't feel like I know enough about it," Abel says. "I think most people don't know enough about the EU."

"I don't know how it would affect me personally," she says. "But I know that there's been talk about it for a long time."

One possible consequence of a Brexit is reduced mobility within Europe for UK citizens. This is a point against leaving the Europena Union for many. A 46-year-old man named Alan says that "it's a tough one, that" - but then explains that his consulting job depends on the United Kingdom's remaining in the EU.

Thirty-eight-year-old James MacDonald, from Scotland, says he, too, appreciates the freedom of movement that EU membership affords people.

"I think that on the long run, we should join Schengen as well," MacDonald says.

"We all know how the queen jumped in at the last minute with the Scottish referendum and turned things around for us," MacDonald says. "I hope that she'll have something constructive to say about the EU referendum as well."

The date of the referendum has been set for June 23.

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