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Campaigns For And Against 'Brexit' Target British Voters


The United Kingdom is separated from Europe by water, a channel. And as an island, it is a standoffish in other ways as well. It may be a member of the European Union, but it chose not to use the euro or join Europe's free travel zone. In a few weeks, the U.K. will vote on a referendum to leave the EU. Polls show voters are evenly split. BBC correspondent Jonny Dymond is covering the campaigns for and against. They kick off today, and he joined us from Manchester. Good morning.

JONNY DYMOND: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Let's start with the campaign to get out of European Union.

DYMOND: Well, the campaign is an extremely vigorous one, and it's probably the culmination of I would say probably 30 years of rising discontent amongst some about being members of the European Union. It's founded on fairly disparate aims. A driving part of it, in fact, is disquiet about high levels of immigration from Central and Eastern Europe.

And the new members of the European Union has seen hundreds of thousands of people coming over to the United Kingdom, generally working here - some claims that they have been living on welfare here as well - but a disquiet that the country has changed very rapidly, really in the last 10 years as large numbers have come in. And then there are concerns about sovereignty, about the fact that you pool sovereignty when you join the European Union, and then you end up in the end taking some orders from the European Union and concern that the European Union itself is a slow-moving and bureaucratic organization, perhaps...


DYMOND: ...Less suited to a fast-moving globalize world.

MONTAGNE: And so then the arguments for staying...

DYMOND: Well, the arguments are that the European Union works, that it is a force for good around the world, that it has created a huge single market which Britain has free access to as a result of its membership and that if Britain actually left to try and rid itself of the constraints of the European Union - if it wanted to get back into that single market it probably have to take on all those constraints all over again. And finally, that leaving the European Union would be a kind of economic shock that could severely depress economic activity. So there are lots of very heated arguments on either side.

MONTAGNE: All right, well, we just have time for one more question, and I'm curious about the stay-in camp running an ad called Talk To Gran, as in talk to your grandmother.

DYMOND: Talk to your grandmother - it's really because the way in which voters are divided. Older voters are much more likely to vote out, to leave the European Union, younger voters much more likely to stay in. And so in the same sort of way as I think during the first Obama election, there were some who were sent down to Florida to talk to their older relatives and try and get votes for President Obama there, the suggestion is that younger voters should talk to their older relatives and try and persuade them to stay in the European Union and vote to stay in 10 weeks' time.

MONTAGNE: All right, well, thank you very much. I guess we'll be hearing more about this in the coming, you know, weeks. Jonny Dymond is a correspondent with the BBC. He spoke to us from Manchester, England. And Britain will be voting in June to stay in or leave the European Union. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.