Montreal

Quebecers greet EU referendum vote with fear, and hope

While some Quebecers with ties to the United Kingdom met news of the country's vote to leave the European Union with despair, others see it as a positive step — and good news for Quebec's independence movement.

Opinions on Brexit results range from 'catastrophic' to a 'good example' for Quebecers

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron announced Friday that he will quit as Prime Minister following a defeat in the referendum which ended with a vote for Britain to leave the European Union. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

While some Quebecers with ties to the United Kingdom met news of the country's vote to leave the European Union with despair, others see it as a positive step — and good news for Quebec's independence movement.

Results released early Friday show the Leave side prevailed 52 per cent to 48 per cent in Thursday's vote as tallied by British broadcasters.

The vote had a turnout of 72 per cent of the more than 46 million registered voters.

Elizabeth Elbourne, a native of London who teaches British history at McGill University, says the results of the so-called Brexit referendum are nothing short of a tragedy for the country.

"I'm deeply, deeply saddened, and also shocked. I think it's absolutely tragic," she told CBC Montreal.

Elbourne said she spent a sleepless night watching the results come in, hoping "desperately" for a different outcome.

"I have many friends who are devastated. My Facebook feed is full of people expressing their profound emotional upset," she said.

"There's a fantastically fractured society out there and that's another thing this vote shows — the huge cleavages in the country."

She pointed to the generational divide between voters — 72 per cent of voters aged 18 to 22 voted to stay in the EU compared to only 38 per cent of voters aged 50 to 64 and 34 per cent of voters over the age of 65.

"The youth of Britain will be very much the losers in this because of the loss of mobility — employment mobility and educational mobility. It has incredible implications for the future of Britain, and I'm very saddened by it," she said.

Elbourne said the overwhelming majority of Scots also voted to stay in the European Union, which could lead to another referendum on Scottish independence.

"I think Scotland will attempt again to leave, and I think they would be justified in doing so if you look at the huge disparities between the Scottish vote and the English vote," she said.

Scotland, which held its previous independence referendum in 2014, voted by a margin of 62 per cent to 38 per cent to remain in the EU in Thursday's referendum.

Elbourne worries about the deep wounds stemming from the Brexit vote, and said it was a major error on the part of Prime Minister David Cameron to call the referendum.

Cameron announced Friday that he would resign as prime minister in October.

"It was a catastrophic political mistake — I think it was extraordinarily foolhardy to call a referendum that he did not have to call. His legacy has been irrevocably tarnished by this."

Anti-immigrant concerns

Liv Mavor, a Montrealer who relocated to London nine years ago, told CBC Montreal that she was troubled by the anti-immigrant views expressed by many in favour of leaving the EU. 

"I can't see the U.K. any longer as being the open and welcoming country that I moved to," she said. 

The new mother and home owner is also worried about the effect of the vote on markets and property values.

"We worked really, really hard to build the life that we've built now, and it seems like that could just be crumbling down around our feet," she said.

One prominent Quebec sovereigntist believes Brexit will benefit the province's independence movement. (Matt Dunham/The Associated Press)

'The Thames will flow tomorrow'

Jean-Martin Aussant, founder of Quebec's pro-sovereigntist Option Nationale party who lived and worked in Britain for five years, said he was very surprised by the referendum result, and happily so. 

The economist said voters opted to ignore fearmongering about the effects of a Leave vote for Britain's economy. 

"The advantage of this vote is that Britain will control all its levers, will decide in all spheres what's best for them, and that's the good side of this," he said.

Markets will overreact, and there will be adjustments he said, but that's "quite normal."

"Anytime there's a major event, markets overreact, there's irrational behaviour, and things fall into place not long after," he said.

"The Thames will flow tomorrow morning."

Aussant said the vote is good news for the independence movement in Scotland — and Quebec.

"It gives an example of millions of people voting to have all their tools, all their means of deciding for themselves."


 

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