Voters in the United Kingdom went to the ballot box Thursday to have their say on whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union.
Polls leading up to the vote showed the “leaving” and “remaining” sides in a dead heat, and Northeastern students living and working in London say the atmosphere has been incredibly tense—and that uncertainty has led to volatility.
“I’m currently in the U.K., where it is getting quite hostile,” Dana Landman, AMD’18, a British citizen, said earlier this week. “Everyone has a strong opinion on it, and that has created quite a significant amount of unnecessary conflict.”
Landman pointed to the shooting death of British politician Jo Cox last week as an example of the instability. Cox, who supported staying in the EU, had just finished meeting with constituents when she was shot and stabbed by Tommy Mair, who authorities say may have had links to right-wing extremism.
Katie Mulligan, who is currently on co-op at Wellington Management International in London, noted that an air of uncertainly has lingered over the implications of the referendum results.
“No one really knows what is going to happen and there is constant discussion in the workplace, at pubs, and on the Tube about the potential implications of a vote either way,” Mulligan, DMSB’19, explained on Wednesday. “With so much uncertainty, however, many people feel very passionately about the vote. It has turned into more of an emotional vote rather than a vote based on fact, which has made the atmosphere pretty tense.”
Landman, who will vote in London, said that she believes it would be a big mistake for the U.K. to leave. “I find that a lot of the pro-leave arguments, such as overregulation, the economic impact, and immigration are easily debunked,” she said. “Were we to leave we’d have all the EU responsibility with none of the decision making.”
Mulligan is a U.S. citizen, and therefore isn’t allowed to vote on Thursday. She said she hasn’t become politically involved with the referendum. But she added that more people in London are in favor of remaining in the EU, evidenced by the myriad photos she’s taken of the “Remain” propaganda that has sprung up around the city.
As the U.S. faces its own unpredictable presidential campaign season, Landman said she is surprised by how much more international attention the upcoming U.S. election is getting compared to Brexit.
“Both of these current events have far-reaching consequences,” she said, “but I think the impact of the EU referendum is getting drastically overlooked.”