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Brexit: The Tale Of Two Towns

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's turn now to the story of two British towns with two radically different takes on the U.K.'s decision to leave the European Union. On the surface, Blackpool and Brighton might seem similar - both English towns on the seaside, both resort destinations. But one voted to leave the EU, the other to stay. On a week that saw positive indicators for the U.K. economy, we caught up with a BBC correspondent who visited both these towns. Jonny Dymond is on the line with us.

I'm going to let you describe those two towns, Blackpool and Brighton.

JONNY DYMOND: Well, Blackpool is on the northwest coast of England and was built as a holiday seaside town. And at one point, it was hugely popular. Since then, it has declined. And it is now a slightly weary, slightly tired place, still bustling with holiday-makers, but a fairly troubled Northwestern English town.

Contrary to that, or in contradiction to that, Brighton is on the south coast. It's about an hour's train ride from London. And it is absolutely bustling. It's boom time. It has a very, very strong tourism industry. It also has creative industries. It attracts a lot of people who would live in London but can't afford it. It has a lot of money swilling around it.

And what drew me to the two places was that their Brexit votes were mirror images of each other. Blackpool voted, roughly, I think, 70 percent to get out. Brighton voted around the same numbers to stay in.

MONTAGNE: So Blackpool would be, then, pleased now?

DYMOND: Yeah, you'd have thought Blackpool would be pleased. I think - I don't think they were punching the air in triumph. And part of that, I've got to say, is the feeling, in some people in the North of England, that the vote was one in the eye for London. London, along with Brighton, was, of course, very much in favor of staying in. It's very cosmopolitan place, as is Brighton. And a lot of people in the North, I think, thought that the country had been run by London, for London for too long.

But there is a grim satisfaction, I think, in Blackpool about the vote to leave, compared to Brighton where people were really head in hands, embarrassed about the decision. I was talking with some people who said that on the day after the vote, people were walking around crying and talking into their cellphones - what are we going to do; what's going to happen next? - as if the world had ended.

MONTAGNE: Well, now, when you walk down the streets of Brighton, these numbers have come out. They suggest something that is a little more positive than people were thinking would happen. Are people in Brighton taking that on?

DYMOND: Not really.

MONTAGNE: (Laughter).

DYMOND: I don't think they are. I think they're still pretty stunned by it. And I think there's a degree of what people call confirmation bias about figures. Whenever anything comes out that indicates that things aren't going quite so well with the economy, all the people who wanted to remain say, ha, we told you so. Whenever anything comes out, as they have this week, suggesting that the economy is actually OK, all the people who voted leave say, ha, we told you so.

I think the honest truth is we're not going to know for some months to come, maybe even years to come, about the real impact on the economy. At the moment, however, things have been pretty confident. People have been spending in the shops. And the figures, as you say, look pretty good.

MONTAGNE: That's the BBC's Jonny Dymond, joining us once again.

It's been a pleasure to talk to you.

DYMOND: Huge pleasure. Thank you, Renee Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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