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London Residents Weigh In After Voting On Brexit Referendum


In the United Kingdom, people have been voting all day in a referendum that could redefine Britain's role in the world. At stake - whether the U.K. remains in the European Union. My co-host Robert Siegel is in London all week reporting on the vote they call Brexit, as in British exit. Hi, Robert.

ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: Hi, Ari. How are you?

SHAPIRO: Describe the scene. Where are you right now?

SIEGEL: I'm in front of a polling station on Stanhope Street. It's in the Camden section of London not far from Regent's Park. And before the polls closed here, I spoke with voters on their way out and asked them about how they voted and when they made up their minds on how to vote.

SHAPIRO: What are you hearing from the voters you're talking to?

SIEGEL: Well, you know, I've been asking them how they voted and when they decided how to vote, and I've heard from a couple of people who decided right then and there in the polling place how to vote. Omar Faruq (ph), who was born in Bangladesh, decided to vote to leave the EU as he was in there. He says it's costing too much money that should be going to the National Health Service and schools. That's his reasoning.

A man named John Christos (ph) who was born a Greek Cypriot told me he'd been hoping to cast a protest vote against the EU for leaving because of the way they treated Greece, but he says that the polls show it's so close he couldn't afford that luxury. So he voted to remain.

And then I had this wonderful conversation with a woman named Laura Merriweather (ph) who's a carpenter who told me that she voted to remain she's always been convinced that she should vote to stay in the EU. Those who vote to leave the European Union are doing something that's akin to being on a pub crawl gone wrong. Here's how she put it.

LAURA MERRIWEATHER: If you leave, it's like being on a night out, gets to about 1 o'clock. Let's go somewhere else, go somewhere else. Nowhere else will let you in. You can't get let back into the place you were in, and then you're arguing in a kebab shop at 2 in the morning, wondering whose fault it is.

SIEGEL: She says she works in the theater, by the way - works with Polish workers who she says do a very good job and work very fast.

SHAPIRO: Who of course have been part of the focus of the leave campaign. They say the Polish workers are taking British jobs. I understand the ballots are going to be counted by hand. Does that mean we won't know the results for a while?

SIEGEL: Well, you may know the votes (laughter) before you go to bed in the States. It's possible. But they won't be counted here until it is 4:00 a.m., maybe 7:00 a.m. tomorrow. It will take so long to count them.

SHAPIRO: Obviously there's a huge amount at stake here. But what happens if Britain votes to leave? I can't imagine the number of dominoes that then fall.

SIEGEL: Yeah. I mean the main thing we know is that we really don't know. It's uncertain territory. It's probably it for David Cameron's career. Although he might remain prime minister in name for a few months if that were to happen, and then there would ensue, we assume, long and probably difficult negotiations with the EU for Britain to disentangle itself.

At this point, we don't know if that's going to be the outcome of this referendum by any means, but we also really don't know what it would entail.

SHAPIRO: Well, you mentioned that the polls are very close. Any sense of what the likely outcome is?

SIEGEL: The latest polls have shown remain slightly ahead but within the margin of error. They show young people much more likely to vote to remain, older people much more likely to vote to leave. London, where I am, is a stronghold for remain support, as is Scotland. And certainly in rural areas there's a lot of sentiment to leave. But how it all ends up is still too close in the polls to say that there's an obvious conclusion here.

SHAPIRO: That's our ALL THINGS CONSIDERED co-host Robert Siegel reporting on the Brexit vote from London. Thanks, Robert.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Ari. 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.

Robert Siegel
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.