With the country divided and arguments getting more confusing by the day, we asked Stylist readers if they know which way they’ll be voting in the EU referendum
Words: Zoë Beaty
It’s been the defining debate of summer 2016. Hell, make that 2016, period. The historic referendum on Britain’s status as a member of the EU, taking place on Thursday, has ignited pub disputes, produced brand new family feuds and muted a thousand WhatsApp groups. The last few months have played out like a parody, with David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn agreeing on something (that we should stay put) while Boris and sister Rachel Johnson have fought head to head.
The ‘Brexit flotilla’ – a fleet of fishing boats on the River Thames led by Nigel Farage and the Leave campaign, with Sir Bob Geldof and pals from the Remain camp hot on their tail – became just another Wednesday.
Everyone from Barack Obama, who warned us to stay put, to Dame Joan Collins, who thinks we should leave, has had their say. It was no surprise the debate went global, but who knew we’d also be hearing from the likes of Matt Damon?
It’s not inflated to say that, amid the earnest Facebook posts, TV debates and celebrity conjecture, it all got slightly out of hand. Claims became ludicrous (including one that a Remain vote will cause UK Indian restaurants to close and another that pigs would vote to stay in) and most of us got increasingly confused by what to believe in a debate based on speculative what-ifs.
But it’s still essential that you vote. With one million more women than men eligible to cast a ballot, Britain’s female electorate has the potential power to decide. Yet, the London School of Economics found that more than one quarter of women hadn’t made up their minds. And there’s only a few hours to go until the final deadline.
So instead of quizzing random celebrities and puffed-up politicians, we decided to ask you how you’ll vote and why. Seven hundred Stylist readers replied, 77% of whom know how they’ll vote, with 59% opting to remain in the EU. But 23% of you either don’t know, or aren’t voting, so there’s still a lot to play for. Scroll down to see if these readers can help you make up your mind…
Kelly Wray, 21, student, London
“Prices are going to increase so much if we leave the EU. Young people can barely afford to live in cities to further our careers as it is. Over the next 10 years and more, we’ll be living in this reality, while older generations won’t see the legacy of this decision for as long. If we break away, unity will fall apart between us and the rest of the world.”
Emma West, 29, postgraduate student, Cardiff
“In Wales, we receive loads of EU funding – lots more than we put in. It’s given us thousands of jobs and has helped regenerate our towns. More than that, though, I believe in the EU’s founding principles of peace and co-operation. It’s only by working together that we can tackle extremism, help the environment and protect workers’ rights.”
Paula Whestone, 22, graphic designer, Leicester
“I’m voting to remain in the EU because I feel it provides people of my generation with the most security for our working futures. The creative industry in particular could struggle with regards to trade. I hope to travel and possibly work abroad in the future, and this would be so much more difficult if we leave.”
Yam Phillips, 28, radiology assistant, Peterborough
“If we exit, how would the country cope with all of the expat Britons having to return to the UK, as well as the strain it would have on the NHS? There’s growth of renewable energy and recycling in EU countries, and we can exchange criminal records with EU countries to help combat terrorists and criminals.”
Natalie Hope, 32, actress, London
“The people who are saying they want to be out are citing sovereignty and immigration. I don’t think leaving the EU will change either of those things. We’re only a little country and at the moment, I think we’re getting a bit too big for our boots. The thought of leaving and being solely reliant on a Tory government is horrendous.”
Nicki Davenport, 33, jazz musician, London
“The European Union is powerful in elevating the role of women. I’ve just had a baby, so I care about maternity leave, pay and rights – it’s thanks to EU membership that we have decent maternity pay. If we left, we’d run the risk of losing rights. And I think it’s defeatist to run away.”
Ellen Gardner, 24, doctor, Leeds
“I will be voting to remain. I feel that immigration and the free movement of people are positive things for the UK. Working in the NHS, I see the hard work delivered by foreign healthcare professionals every day. Currently 26% of doctors working in the NHS were born abroad and without them the NHS would struggle to meet demand.”
Arabella Gourlay, 26, DLR passenger service assistant, London
“A lot of my reasons for staying are to do with travel and trade. Plus, I like the idea of being part of something bigger. Ideally, I’d love there to be a global union. I think there’s a certain hypocrisy to England telling Scotland to stay part of Britain, before trying to exit the EU ourselves.”
Genna Haraldsen, 28, caseworker, Carlisle
“I’m voting to leave the EU because I think a country should have responsibility for its own legislation and should control its own borders, regardless of which country, which legislation or the type or level of migration. I appreciate that Britain’s future outside the EU can’t be predicted, but I believe it’s worth the risk in the long term.”
Sophie Green, 28, manager, Sunderland
“There’s a lot of scaremongering about immigration and security by the Leave campaign, but it’s unfair to align those who want to leave with the likes of Ukip. Obama’s comments were also scare tactics as Britain’s allegiance with the USA is not going to break down that easily. We could gain much more from leaving the EU.”
Debbie Manika, 27, nurse, London
“Up until I watched the TV debates, I was unsure of how to vote. But I saw that, actually, Nigel Farage answered questions a lot more clearly than David Cameron. Seeing my peers ask the questions I was thinking about was really helpful. Unless Remain can come up with some factual information to support what they say, I’ll be voting out.”
Ali Hodgkinson Fogg, 43, artist, Folkestone
“For me, it’s about democracy. I can’t think of any historical examples where limiting democracy has been conducive to lasting stability or social justice. We’ve seen examples in Greece and Portugal of how the EU is able to counteract the democratic will of its member states and, to me, this is a deeply troubling precedent.”
Claire Hall, 34, founder of Percy’s Teas, Boston, Lincolnshire
“There is a lot of scaremongering but I think we can thrive outside the European Union and become stronger. I feel we are losing our identity within the EU and have very little control over things. We need to be able to make our own laws and not be dictated to. I am yet to hear a good reason for us to stay in.”
Sameera Simsee, 35, management consultant, London
“I’ll be voting out because of immigration issues. I think we need to have tighter controls over our quotas. Something more like the Canadian or Australian points system definitely needs to be introduced over here and I just don’t think we’ll be able to do that if we stay within the EU.”
Natalie Mayhew, 37, admin assistant, London
“We know how it’s been in the EU for all these years, and I don’t believe it’s working as it should. We’re the United Kingdom – we’re a powerful nation on our own. And most of the time all the EU is doing is holding us to ransom. We don’t have autonomy. Why not take the risk? We need to try something new.”
Emily Clark, 23, marketing executive, Bolton
“When we refused to take the euro, there was no economic disaster and trade relations remained relatively unaltered. I believe the same would be true if a Brexit occurred. I think that by leaving we will save money that can be better spent domestically and we will have more control over our borders and laws.”