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Brexit vote inflames passions

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, campaigns for Britain to leave the European Union during a rally Tuesday in Clacton-on-Sea, England. The vote on the EU referendum takes placeThursday.

Strong opinions on the "Brexit" referendum in the United Kingdom spread all the way to Minnesota.

The term, shorthand for Britain exit, refers to the Thursday's referendum on whether Britain should remain or leave in the European Union.

The European Union is an economic and political partnership of 28 European countries. The EU has its own currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the 28 countries, its own parliament and it now sets rules in a variety of areas including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and mobile phone charges.

Richard Vile, a native of Oxford, England, studied in the United Kingdom and received his Ph.D. from the University of London. He came to the United States to study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester about 18 years ago.

Vile, a dual citizen, is well aware of the upcoming "Brexit" referendum.


"Personally I think the U.K. should stay in the EU — it would make for a stronger union for Europe and the U.K.," said Vile. "When all countries are part of a single union, it's good for reducing tensions and for better economic opportunity."

Vile remains a professor at the University of Leeds and has family overseas. Since voting is open for U.K. nationals living abroad, Vile will be sending his vote via the postal service.

Another Rochester resident, Neil Cassidy, is a native of England and played semi-professional soccer there. A large portion of his family still lives in the U.K., and some were visiting this week.

Neil's stepfather, Alan Blomeley, is from Manchester, U.K., said the debate has been heated during the past months. "It's turning family members against family members," he said.

"This whole situation is a mess," said Blomeley. "We should have never ever been given the option. Once we elected to be a part of the EU, that's it."

Like Vile, Blomeley is also voting that the U.K. stay in the European Union.

"The U.K. is part of a large community," Blomeley said. "Economically and socially we thrive in the EU."

The daily lives of people would change if the U.K. left the EU. Even though the plan would take more than two years to start and complete, there are all sorts of effects.


"Although there are lots of things wrong with the EU, the only way to correct it is to work within and change for the better," Blomeley said.

Blomeley will likewise send his vote via the postal service.

The decision to hold a referendum happened when Prime Minister David Cameron won the 2015 general election. He received backlash during his campaign when Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs) and the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) argued that that Britain has not had a say since 1975, when they voted to stay in the EU.

"This is a decision that is bigger than any individual politician or government," said Cameron in his European Union speech on May 9, 2015, in London. "It will have real, permanent and direct consequences for this country and every person living in it."

Cameron along with 16 members of his cabinet and about half of the U.K. population are in favor of the U.K. staying in the EU. Those campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU say it gets a big boost from membership — it makes selling things to other EU countries easier and, they argue, the flow of immigrants, most of whom are young and keen to work, fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services. They also believe Britain's status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that we are more secure as part of the 28 nation club, rather than going it alone.

"So I say – instead, let us remain, let us fight our corner, let us play the part we should, as a great power in the world, and a great and growing power in Europe," said Cameron in his EU speech. "That is the big, bold and patriotic decision for Britain on June 23."

The other half of the population, according to the latest opinion polls, want to leave the EU. They believe that Britain is being held back by the EU, which they say imposes too many rules on business and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They also want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming here to live and/or work.

One of the main principles of EU membership is "free movement", which means you don't need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. They also object to the idea of "ever closer union" and what they see as moves toward the creation of a "United States of Europe."


Voting is open for British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens 18 and older who are residents in the U.K., along with U.K. nationals living abroad who have been on the electoral register in the U.K. in the past 15 years.

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