WaPo | Seen from London, Edinburgh, Oxford or other havens of the cosmopolitan British elite, this country’s vote next month on whether to quit the European Union may appear to be a relatively easy choice.
Not a day goes by when a foreign leader, renowned economist or military chief doesn’t warn of the dire consequences of a vote to leave — for Britain and for the world.
But venture just 45 minutes north of London by train to the ancient market city of Peterborough and it soon becomes clear why, with just over a month to go before the referendum, the polls are running nearly even.
Here, the initials E.U. are spat rather than spoken, Brussels is a dirty word, and all the prophecies of doom seem a small risk compared with the opportunity to unshackle Britain from Europe.
For in Peterborough — by at least one measure the least E.U.-friendly city in Britain — Europe doesn’t mean the world’s most prosperous and peaceful continent. It means a mass influx of Eastern European immigrants across open borders that residents say has transformed this city beyond all measure.
“This used to be the posh part of Peterborough. Look at it now,” David Jackson, a 41-year-old teacher, said as he ruefully surveyed the scene on Lincoln Road, the commercial heart of the city’s multiethnic immigrant communities. “Romanians pissing in the park. Lithuanians out on the street drinking, doing drugs. Even the rats here are on heroin.”