'It's crap': Brexit voters voice scorn for draft deal

Joe JACKSON
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Anti-European Union demostrators rallied in London for a "hard" Brexit as the prime minister defended the deal agreed with the EU

Anti-European Union demostrators rallied in London for a "hard" Brexit as the prime minister defended the deal agreed with the EU (AFP Photo/Tolga AKMEN)

Boston (United Kingdom) (AFP) - In the eastern English town of Boston, ground zero for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, voters voiced little support Wednesday for Prime Minister Theresa May's long-awaited deal.

Despite uncertainty over the exact terms of the draft agreement, people in this market town 100 miles (160 kilometres) north of London said they preferred a clean break.

"It's crap," retiree Kathrine Denham, 74, said of May's mooted plan. "She's reneging on everything we voted for.

"We should just get out -- I don't know why we're faffing around."

May told parliament on Wednesday that the tentative deal struck by British and European Union negotiators delivers on the result of the 2016 referendum.

The vote saw 52 percent of Britons back leaving the EU after four decades of membership -- with around three-quarters of Boston residents voting in favour.

"They're going to screw us," retired farmer John Taylor, 70, told AFP at the town's twice-weekly market.

The market is held in the shadow of the largest parish church in England, boasting a 270-foot tower dating back to the 14th century.

"It's going to be a right shambles," he said of the parliamentary battle May faces over the plan.

"If she keeps her job she's going to be lucky."

- 'So many backstabbers' -

Others agreed May has little hope of uniting her fractious cabinet and Britain's parliament, divided between ardent Brexiteers and Remainers.

"I don't think she's got a cat's in hell chance of winning because she's got so many backstabbers," said 58-year-old carer Brenda Taylor, walking her two whippets in a park.

"She'll be made a scapegoat from hereon," the Brexit supporter added, noting she nonetheless still expects Britain to leave.

"If we just walked out they'd be more keen to negotiate with us," added her husband, who favours a no-deal scenario.

This flat and fertile farming region has experienced a big spike in recent decades in the number of immigrants from Eastern Europe arriving to work in the agricultural sector.

Around a quarter of the 65,000-strong population of Boston is now from the EU, according to government statistics. Unofficial counts put the numbers higher.

Locals said Wednesday such a rapid change in demographics, alongside a sense of little control over the political process, had fuelled the Brexit vote.

- 'I'm just done' -

Whatever the outcome with May's deal, there was no appetite for the second referendum that some campaigners are calling for.

"We've had a vote -- it's done," said David Holmes, 35, a Brexit backer.

Unimpressed by May's plan, he would like to see opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn given the chance to negotiate.

"I like Corbyn because he tells it like it is."

Even those in Boston who voted to stay in the EU in 2016 appeared unconvinced by the deal -- though sympathetic to May.

"She's picked up a bit of a poisoned chalice and is doing remarkably well with it," said Bryan Kirkham, 70, a retired local authority planner who has come around to support leaving.

"But if we give up our ability to make our own laws, that's one thing I don't like to see.

"Exit is exit, and no deal is perhaps better than a fudge."

Joshua Wright, a 26-year-old IT worker and Remainer, said he was fatigued by the whole debate.

"People are wanting a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit, and all sorts -- and I'm just done."