‘I regularly travel in Europe and it’s shown me how right Brexit was’

ROME – A die-hard Brexiter who regularly travels to countries across Europe says his trips have strengthened his belief that the UK was right to leave the European Union.

Simon Newell, a 56-year-old policy and partnership consultant from Brighton, said his holidays have shown him the stark differences that exist within any single country and the need for local governments that are close to the people.

“We can’t have blanket rules,” he told i, adding that he believes the EU has proven unable to cope with different territorial challenges within member states.

Blanket rules for EU countries on issues like migration were “farcical”, he claimed, as Munich faces different challenges compared to Rome or Paris, for instance.

“I voted Leave because I believe the European institutions are not representative of the British people and their needs, they’re too distant, government and policies should be as local as possible,” said Mr Newell, who frequently visits Sicily and other parts of Italy.

“I do think that some countries, France, Germany, have fared fairly well through the EU, and others – Greece, possibly Italy – have fared less well.”

While several expats and Britons with second homes abroad have spoken to i about how Brexit has made their lives more difficult, Mr Newell called for patience.

“I think you need to wait at least a generation, 10 years or so, to see the real impact of Brexit before any big decision regarding another vote is taken,” he said.

He added that the UK’s economic downturn may not be solely due to Covid-19 and poor political decisions, but could also be a side effect of Britain’s previous EU membership. “It is difficult to judge how much of what is going on is due to Brexit or Covid policies,” he said.

While he believes that the EU has generally made a positive contribution as a trading bloc, he says its governance has been “less positive” and contributed to “a sense of distant decision-making, taking democratic function further away from communities”.

Mr Newell is not alone. Ben (not his real name), a 67-year-old from Manchester, says he voted Leave because he believes the UK’s economic crisis is due to years of being “tyrannised” by bad EU policies.

“Brexit has nothing to do with rising mortgages, interest rates and homeless people living in the middle of the street in tents. That’s not the real reason, it’s just what certain politicians want us to believe,” Ben told i.

“Our economy sucks right now because for too many decades we have been financially drained by the EU bodies, contributing tons of money to the European budget.

“And all that money never really came back into our pockets to benefit us Brits.”