Participants hold a British Union flag and an EU flag during a pro-EU referendum event at Parliament Square in London, Britain June 19, 2016..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON - In schools, churches, libraries and various venues across the UK, citizens took to the polling booths Thursday to cast their vote in the EU referendum, arguably the most seismic choice the country has faced for over a generation.
Talking to voters outside a range of polling stations in Golders Green, north London, it was clear that factors such as age or religion played little role in which side one voted for.
For John Baker, 68, and Aimee Nathan, 25, both of whom are Jewish, two very different perspectives on the referendum existed. Speaking to them as they exited the polling station erected at Menorah Primary School, it was clear that immigration remained one of the foremost issues at the heart of the EU debate.
For Baker, who voted to leave, his main concerns lay in the argument that has frequently been put forward by the Leave campaign: that Turkey will soon become an EU member state. He expressed concern about the EU growing, voicing his fear about “the strong likelihood that the union will expand to include countries such as Turkey, [giving] many people free access.”
Nathan, who voted Remain, argued conversely that as Jew she felt a strong moral duty to vote for Britain to stay in. “I’m from an immigrant background,” she explained, speaking with passion.
“I’m from Jewish grandparents who had to leave during the Holocaust, and I feel that it’s our duty as Jews to embrace immigration.”
For some, Israel was the issue around which they based their vote. Haya Eida, 45, who did not want to reveal how she voted, nevertheless felt a lot of frustration with the EU’s treatment of Israel.
Arguing that Brexit could potentially lead to more trade with the Jewish state, she believed that “Israel has a huge amount to offer, and I think the EU is relatively anti-Semitic.”
She expanded by saying that “were we to vote no, [I would hope that] people would like to be open minded about doing business with Israel and create openings that don’t exist at present.” Over at Trinity Church polling station a short distance away, David McGinn, a 22-yearold medical student festooned with a large ‘Vote Leave’ badge, cast his vote. Asked about the idea that the Leave camp tends to be one dominated by the middle aged and the elderly, he responded that this perhaps lay more in a blurred conception among his generation of what the EU and Europe are.
“I love Europe – I was in France and Germany a few weeks ago, and I’m going to Greece over the summer,” he said. But his issues with the EU lie in the recent impact he sees EU membership having on young people in some member states.
“I see the EU as something that is holding back Europe,” he said, suggesting that “if you look at youth unemployment in Greece and Spain and in Portugal, I cannot look at that and say that the EU is something that has been good for young people throughout Europe.”