In Doncaster and London, Brexit still divides opinion as UK heads for the exit door

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With the UK just hours from leaving the European Union after nearly half a century, The Yorkshire Post spoke to campaigners in central London and locals in Yorkshire's biggest Brexit-backing town.

For much of the last three-and-a-half years, Parliament Square and nearby College Green in central London have acted as a microcosm for the Brexit debate.

On any given day protesters wrapped in Union Jack flags and just as many holding the blue and yellow mark of the European Union aimed to influence politicians, the media, and passersby on their thoughts and feelings on the biggest constitutional change in the UK for decades.

The cry of “stop Brexit” has been bellowed, with the sound bouncing off the surrounding buildings.And you would be lucky to get by without a leaflet being thrust into your hand.

Today, this country’s final day as part of the EU, was no different.

As organisers geared up to host Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in the square later in the evening, Mark Desmond, from Essex, had already found his spot from which he would celebrate.

Brexiteers stand on the EU Flag, ahead of the UK leaving the European Union at 11pm on Friday. Pic: PA

Brexiteers stand on the EU Flag, ahead of the UK leaving the European Union at 11pm on Friday. Pic: PA

Read more: How Leeds bucked the Yorkshire trend for voting to leave the European Union

Read more: Brexit vindication as European dream ends – Yorkshire Post Letters

“What is so wrong with a nice bit of patriotism? Patriotism will make the country strong,” Mr Desmond said, holding a pole sporting the Union Jack, and the American flag, among others.

“And people don't have to fight. We can all work together, we can all build business, we can all build strong communities. What is wrong with that?”

The Winston Churchill statue and Union flags in Parliament Square, London, ahead of the UK leaving the European Union at 11pm on Friday. PA Photo

The Winston Churchill statue and Union flags in Parliament Square, London, ahead of the UK leaving the European Union at 11pm on Friday. PA Photo

Mr Desmond’s view seems simple, but the process of Brexit has been nothing but.

Seemingly never ending votes, Government defeats, and extensions made it appear we may never reach the point of leaving.

“This never should have taken this long,” Mr Desmond said. “People over there in Parliament basically turned on the people.”

It is a feeling found across the country, of feeling forgotten and not listened to - felt before the Brexit vote and since. But for others, not all hope is lost.

Some 69 per cent of locals in Doncaster voted for Brexit in 2016. Pic: Marie Caley

Some 69 per cent of locals in Doncaster voted for Brexit in 2016. Pic: Marie Caley

Slyvia Zamperini and Louise Brown, stood right next to Mr Desmond, could not be further away in their views.

Ms Brown, part of North East for Europe, had travelled to London to show her disgust.

She said: “We want to show the press here, especially the world's press, that for more than half of the country this is the day of depression, Brexit day.

The country is very divided, but the latest polls actually showed that the majority is for Remain.

“And so it's not a day of celebration for us, we feel like we're here because we're getting all of our rights taken off us.”

Ms Zamperini added: “The referendum was rigged, taxpaying EU citizens, were allowed to vote. Why should I respect the result of a referendum which was rigged to start with, which was also advisory?

“I'm standing here because tonight at 11.01pm phase two of the campaign starts again, to rejoin and to hold people to account.”

Ms Brown said: “The surge of young people coming in, they already are seeing their rights have been stripped especially the one about working in the EU. And they're going to be so angry about it.”

Some 170 miles north in Doncaster, where the 69 per cent of voters who supported a departure from the EU made it the biggest Brexit-backing area in Yorkshire, the prevailing emotion was one of relief that it was all over.

Elaine Woodward, 58, a retired IT project manager from Tickhill, said: "I voted to Remain but was happy to follow the democratic result. If anything I am just relieved it is over and done with and as a country we can just move on and pull together. I don't care about Big Ben ringing and things like that.

"It is hard to say what difference it will make to Doncaster. To say we have had EU funding Doncaster doesn't look so smart but that is due to other things."

Marion Sides, a former Tesco worker from the nearby village of Warmsworth, described the UK's imminent departure as "fabulous".

"We have been waiting a long time for it and we've been fed up with what the Government has been doing, bickering, we have had enough of it all," she said. "That is why I am glad it is here.

"I do think we will be better off in the long run, We can make our own rules, we are not governed by the EU any more, it is lots of little things that are quite important to this country."

For Trevor Stead, 78, a retired heavy haulage fitter from Pudsey in West Yorkshire, the change in immigration rules was the biggest concern.

He said: "As soon as they shut the bloody doors, all we seem to get here is the dross of Europe. We need foreign professionals, let them come if they can pay their taxes. But we do seem to have a fair amount of dross. The sooner it happens the better. I wish they would shut the doors and get something organised instead of letting everyone roll in. The place is going to the dogs in a red truck.

"The majority of the country voted for Brexit, if we had stayed out I wouldn't have voted in a local or General Election again. What is the point of voting in the first place [if that had happened]?"

But not everyone who spoke to The Yorkshire Post was happy to be leaving. Mark Braddock, 52, from Denaby, said: "I think we should have stayed in, it is an excuse to get rid of workers' rights and things like that. People who will benefit economically will get richer, everyone else will be left behind."

Chris Madin, a 35-year-old singer from Doncaster, said Boris Johnson's Brexit deal "feels a bit like a rush job even though it has taken a long time", adding: "It feels like a very last-minute attempt to satisfy people."

And Helen Clegg, 35, from Barnsley, added: "I am sure things will change but there is not much I can do about it. I voted for Remain, but it is done and we have to make the best of it."