U.K. Lawmakers Face One Of The Most Important Votes In Decades

Jan 14, 2019
Originally published on January 15, 2019 2:06 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Tomorrow, members of the U.K. Parliament will face one of their most important votes in decades. They're deciding on Prime Minister Theresa May's plan to leave the European Union. Today, May warned that if she is defeated, the United Kingdom might never leave the EU, betraying the many millions who voted for Brexit.

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THERESA MAY: People's faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm. We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum.

KELLY: But many who voted to leave Brexit have been angered by the Brexit process. Though, as NPR's Frank Langfitt found on a visit to an English fishing community, some still want out of the EU, no matter the cost.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: It's still dark in the town of Lowestoft on England's east coast. June Mummery drives me to a morning fish auction her company runs along the docks.

JUNE MUMMERY: I'm absolutely disgusted at my government at the moment. I cannot believe what a fiasco this has turned into.

LANGFITT: As we arrive, a fish-buyer named Marty Bloomfield pops his head in the window to say hello and shares his thoughts about leaving the European Union.

MARTY BLOOMFIELD: I'm really keen for us to get out, and I don't care if we go the hard way. You know, it just needs to be done.

LANGFITT: Would you be willing to leave without a deal?

BLOOMFIELD: Absolutely, with no hesitation about that at all.

LANGFITT: Mummery's brought me to the auction to illustrate the impact she says the EU has had on her hometown's fishing industry.

MARTIN MITCHELL: Skate, and it's open - 2 pounds.

LANGFITT: Martin Mitchell is auctioning skate from big plastic bins lying on the market's concrete floor. Standing in blue overalls and black waders, he scribbles orders in a notebook. But there's not a lot of skate and even fewer buyers. Mitchell's worked here since the '70s.

MITCHELL: Thousands of people used to be employed on the market years ago here when I first started.

LANGFITT: Why has it changed so much?

MITCHELL: Lack of fishing opportunities, for foreigners are taking the fish away from the English, basically.

LANGFITT: Because the U.K. is a member of the EU, British fishermen have to share the nation's waters with boats from Europe, on which they blame much of the industry's decline.

Paul Lines has fished here since 1974. He says walking away from the EU with no future arrangement - what people here call a no-deal Brexit - would allow fishermen to reclaim their country's fishing grounds and rebuild the industry.

PAUL LINES: Europe's successively beaten our government in her corner, taken a bit more each year. After 40 years, we're beaten. But we have the ability of once in a lifetime now to take back control and shape our destiny.

LANGFITT: The EU's Common Fisheries Policy is complex and involves quotas for fishing certain species. And experts say British fishermen do have some legitimate complaints. But Peter Aldous, a Conservative Member of Parliament who represents the area, says some of the blame lies at home.

PETER ALDOUS: I also think you'd have to say that successive British governments have mismanaged and implemented the Common Fisheries Policy in a way that has not been good for Lowestoft, in particular with regard to the management of the quota system.

LANGFITT: While some of the fishing community just want to walk away from the EU, Aldous is wary about the impact on other businesses.

ALDOUS: A no-deal Brexit - you are playing a game of Russian roulette with those industries. And for that reason, I would feel very uncomfortable with a no-deal Brexit.

LANGFITT: But June Mummery and others in the fishing community here disagree. She sees a quick divorce from the EU as creating a new beginning for the industry. Now, she says, if only the politicians in London would see it her way. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Lowestoft.

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