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Brexiteers Back Johnson Who Says U.K. Will Leave The EU By Oct. 31


The U.K.'s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing to withdraw his country from the European Union by the end of October, even without a deal. Economists have warned that move could shock the British economy and, actually, already the pound hit a two-year low against the U.S. dollar on Monday. But those who voted for Brexit in 2016 say this is about democracy. Here's NPR's Joanna Kakissis.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Canvey Island is a seaside escape from hectic London. Its stands selling old-fashioned pies and mash hit just the right notes of English nostalgia. On the sandy beach, sitting on layers of pink towels, is grandmother Tracey Batchelor, who says she feels at home here.

TRACEY BATCHELOR: We used to live in East London. There's no English people there where I lived. It's all full of Lithuanians and, wherever they come from, I don't know. There's nobody there that we know anymore. Everyone's had to move out.

KAKISSIS: Including Batchelor herself, who moved to a town near Canvey Island several years ago. She says she was priced out of her London neighborhood because, she claims, subsidized housing goes to immigrants.

BATCHELOR: Homes are going to people who are just coming over, who's never paid into the country. It's just not fair, I don't think. I feel like we're, like, the minority now.


KAKISSIS: Immigration is a big reason why many here voted in favor of Brexit. And the fact that Brexit still hasn't happened after three years really galls 61-year-old Carol Stephens.

CAROL STEPHENS: I'm just fed up with the whole thing of it, really. What is really annoying is the people that keep saying, well, you made a mistake, you didn't want that, we'll have another vote. I mean, what happened to democracy? It's gone.

KAKISSIS: She's sunning herself on the beach with her husband, Terry, a retired mailman. Terry says he's put his faith in the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has promised that the U.K. will leave the EU by the October 31 deadline, do or die.

TERRY STEPHENS: My confidence in politicians is not very high at the moment. So let's see. If he does, he'll do well. If he doesn't, well, it's just another false promise.


KAKISSIS: About 38 miles west, at the British Parliament in Westminster, London, Rebecca Harris is prepping for a meeting with her fellow Conservative Party members. Harris represents Castle Point, a district which includes Canvey Island, and where 73% of voters supported Brexit.


REBECCA HARRIS: They are prepared to leave on "no-deal" if that's the only option because leaving is the important thing.

KAKISSIS: What analysts usually argue is that, no, people don't understand the details and what's going to happen with a "no-deal." What do you think about that?

HARRIS: I think it's very patronizing. You know, we faced recessions before. We faced, you know, wars. And, you know, people are saying how bad can it be? But it's what we have to do for democracy. Democracy is worth more than GDP, growth, and that is very much the attitude.



KAKISSIS: Back on Canvey Island, the town's hairdresser John Coronado talks Brexit with a client as he blow-dries her hair.

UNIDENTIFIED HAIR SALON CLIENT: I just want it to be over now. Don't you?

KAKISSIS: Coronado wants the U.K. to leave the European Union because he views Brussels as a kind of bureaucratic overlord that weakens local governments.

JOHN CORONADO: For me, it's about centralization. I believe it just makes people lazier and less responsible for their selves, expecting the nanny states to do everything for them.

KAKISSIS: If Brexit does not happen by the October 31 deadline, Coronado predicts the blame will fall on EU leaders, not the new prime minister.

CORONADO: Boris Johnson stood up. He's put his neck on the line. He said, the buck stops with me. I don't prescribe to this, it's going to be a disaster if we have a "no-deal," anyway. We'll work it out.

KAKISSIS: Jackie Lloyd is not so sure. The 57-year-old accounts manager says Brexit seems to have primarily benefited one person.

JACKIE LLOYD: Boris has done well. He's literally used this to get where he is.

KAKISSIS: Lloyd is having beers with her husband, David, at the Windjammer, a pub that's a few doors down from John Coronado's salon. The Lloyds want the U.K. to remain in the EU. But after three years of nonstop talk about Brexit, they've stopped caring about it.

DAVID LLOYD: Bored to death. Simple as that.

J LLOYD: Because it's like repeating the same, the same, the same. And we weren't told the truth at the beginning.

D LLOYD: All we want is it over and done with, and then we can go back and watch "Coronation Street" and whatever we want to do. You know what I mean? Can't wait for the football season.


KAKISSIS: While many just want to see an end to the deadlock, Boris Johnson now says he will go an extra thousand miles to negotiate a new deal, a goal that in three months will be far from easy.

Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, on Canvey Island, England. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.