Gospel Oak neighbours in “Brexit banner banter” are still friends
- Credit: Archant
Neighbours in Gospel Oak say they are “still friends” after publicly airing their difference of opinion over the Brexit question.
Retired physics teacher Tony Barnett hung his “Vote Leave” banner outside his flat in Lissenden Gardens, which overlooks Hampstead Heath,
Mr Barnett said he was amused when he saw that neighbour, Frank Chalmers, a retired food safety worker, had hung an “extension” to the banner outside his own window, with the words, “if you want to cut workers’ rights.”
A photo of the banners went viral after Mr Chalmers’ son shared it on social media, leading to unexpected media interest in the neighbourly difference of opinion, as the June 23 referendum fast approaches.
The two men have lived next door to each other for more than 20 years, and both describe themselves as traditional Labour voters and socialists.
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Mr Chalmers said he was moved to hang his banner because he believes the EU has benefitted working people in many ways.
He said: “Equal pay for men and women, the 48 hour maximum working week - we have the EU to thank for all of this, and more.”
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Mr Barnett said he is a Brexiter for various reasons, but mainly because he feels the EU serves the interests of the elite above working-class people.
He said: “Most people around here are pro-EU, so I do feel like a bit of a lone voice. Most left-wingers in north London see things from a distance. They are not in amongst the real working-class people, so they don’t see the negative impact of uncontrolled immigration, for example.
“I don’t really think Frank had a point. I’m all in favour of workers’ rights, but they have been won over years of struggle, not just through the EU.”
He said he hadn’t had a debate with his neighbour about the Brexit question prior to the banner incident.
“When I saw his banner, I just laughed. He’d obviously gone away and thought about it, like a grand chess master.
“There are no hard feelings at all, we’re still friends. That’s the good thing about this country - we all have freedom of speech.”
Mr Barnett said that he was now considering his response. He said: “I’ll have to come up with something good now, won’t I? We’ve got another month until the referendum, so let’s see.”