Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Continental View on Brexit; What Does the Rest of Europe Think about the Brexit Debate? to Find out, We Spoke to a French Journalist Who Visited the North East to Cover the EU Referendum for Her Newspaper. MIKE KELLY Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Continental View on Brexit; What Does the Rest of Europe Think about the Brexit Debate? to Find out, We Spoke to a French Journalist Who Visited the North East to Cover the EU Referendum for Her Newspaper. MIKE KELLY Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: MIKE KELLY

FOR many, particularly in the UK regions, the feeling is the Brexit debate has become a London-centric face-off between Tory party factions.

It's David Cameron and George Osborne versus Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, with Ukip's Nigel Farage the between-rounds entertainment.

That's not to decry the efforts of the campaign groups working day and night to educate a public on a steep learning curve about what the EU means to them.

However, the British media seems, by and large, to have locked into the 'Tory Party bun fight' narrative.

So it was a pleasant surprise that journalist Cecile Reto, of the French newspaper Ouest France, chose to ignore London and came to Newcastle and the North East to get a perspective on what the EU referendum means to the public.

"The reason I came to Newcastle was because of Nissan, which I saw as a big EU company in a region which has been touched by so much austerity," said Cecile. "I wanted to give our readers a different view other than that of London."

We are talking, via an interpreter, at the Bridge Hotel in the shadow of the castle from which Newcastle got its name.

She was a few days into a oneweek stay and said it had proved both a rewarding and enlightening experience.

She said: "I've been surprised by the answers I have got. A lot of people say their views about leaving or remaining in the EU are not about their politics but personal opinions."

What Cecile is saying is that while the North East is a Labour Party stronghold, voters up here might not be sticking to the party line when it comes to the EU vote.

This could be bad news for the 'Remain' group, if the perception of political party allegiance is anything to go by.

While the impression given, despite the best efforts of David Cameron, is that the Tory party is inherently anti-Europe, Labour is seen as pro the EU. But not all the party's supporters up here agree.

What Cecile discovered is something that has become clear in the campaign. Labour supporters are divided on the EU, the urban areas of Newcastle and Sunderland being in favour of staying and the rural areas, as well as South Tyneside, for leaving.

For weeks now since the cam-Turn to Page 26 From Page 25 paigning began in earnest, it has not just seemed to be the main topic of debate in the UK. Hardly a days go by without some politician from abroad having their say.

So, the whole world knows what's happening here and has an opinion? Perhaps, not.

Cecile said: "Some French people don't even know the referendum is happening.

"Those who do know are quite divided. They think if the UK does leave it will be the beginning of the end and other countries will leave too. Others think, 'It's those Brits again; they've never liked the EU'. …

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