Editor’s Note: Over the coming months as Britain Brexits from Europe, we’ll be following six people in Romford, a town that overwhelmingly voted Leave, tracking their hopes and fears in this post-referendum reality. These are their stories.
On a sweltering summer’s day, children with ice-cream dribbling down their arms dart between the various stalls at Romford Market.
But, one month after the Brexit vote, stall owners have bigger concerns than sticky fingers – the plummeting pound is taking its toll on those importing goods from Europe.
This could mean bad news for the many market stallholders who voted Leave, but they’re still sounding bullish about their choice, seeing the economic downturn as a temporary bump in the road to a stronger Britain.
Romford is situated in Havering, a London borough where 70% of people voted to exit the EU, making it one of the places with the highest percentage of Leave voters across the UK.
The last time we caught up with them, the country was still reeling from the shock of Brexit, David Cameron had announced his resignation and there was no new prime minister in sight.
Just over a month since the vote and all of that has changed. Leave and Remain voters are now coming to terms with Britain’s new Prime Minister Theresa May and the so-called “Three Brexiteers” – whether or not they asked for it.
The fishmonger predicting a brighter future
Dave Crosbie, 58, owner of “The Better Plaice” seafood stall in Romford Market.
“I think it’s a bright future – we’ve just got to throw the shackles off,” says Leave voter Dave Crosbie, cheeks flushed from the day’s heat.
Looking down from his raised seafood trailer, Crosbie assumes the pose of a preacher at his pulpit.
He outlines his ideal Brexit Britain: “Less unemployment, less queues for the health service, more housing.”
“It might even go back to the old days where you don’t have to pay for university – anything is possible now,” he adds with a chuckle.
The only thing dampening Crosbie’s post-referendum jubilation is the “whinging” Remain voters.
“We live in a democracy. And more people voted to come out, than stay in,” he says.
“So they need to live by the vote.”
The mom saddened by racism
Angelina Leatherbarrow, 40, mother-of-two and former head of committees at nearby Newham Council.
“I really feel that the community is not a place that I feel as happy or as comfortable in anymore,” says Remain voter Angelina Leatherbarrow, pointing to an increase in racism following the Brexit vote.
During a recent trip to the hospital with her daughter, Leatherbarrow was shocked to see the reaction of other patients when a Romanian family walked in.
“Someone who was already in the waiting room immediately says ‘oh for f*** sake, here they all come,’” she recalls.
“I just found it so disrespectful and indicative of how things are now – that people feel validated to say that sort of thing.”
More than one month on, Leatherbarrow says she feels more disappointed than ever that the country voted to leave the European Union.
“I still harbor this hope that now we have a new government hopefully we can start moving forward,” she adds, trying to summon a glimmer of optimism.
The divided couple getting on with it
Emma Hamblett, 45, marketing executive who voted Remain. Tony Bush, 54, gardener who voted Leave. They have been married for 14 years.
“Initially I was devastated, I was really upset,” says Emma Hamblett after the country voted to leave Europe.
A month on, the Remain voter is ready to roll up her sleeves and face Brexit Britain head on.
“We have to be optimistic, we have to pull together as a country, and we just have to live with the consequences,” adds Hamblett.
Husband Tony Bush has no regrets about voting Leave, and agrees it’s time to get on with the job ahead.
Where they disagree is on the new foreign secretary Boris Johnson – a controversial figure in British politics both admired for his charisma, and derided for his offensive comments.
“He’s a complete buffoon who shouldn’t be allowed near important people,” says Hamblett.
“I think he’s entertaining,” replies Bush, adding “Politics can be very stiff and sometimes you need someone like Boris who’s a little bit out-there.”
However Bush admits foreign secretary may not be the most appropriate job for Johnson.
“What job would you give him?” asks Hamblett, adding “Head of clowns?”
The pair erupt into laughter – Brexit has challenged their relationship, but not broken it.
The shopkeeper feeling the pinch
Graeme Gibbons, 50, owner of Penny’s household goods stall in Romford Market for 25 years.
With many of his products imported from Europe, the drop in the British pound has not been kind to Graeme Gibbons’ business.
“A few lines have become more expensive,” he says, in between rearranging bottles of washing detergent, toilet cleaner and bleach.
“So I’m having to consider whether I run them anymore.”
Gibbons is yet to pass on the increased prices to his customers, instead taking the hit himself.
Not that the Leave voter regrets his decision – in fact, he sticks by it wholeheartedly.
“We definitely made the right decision,” he says, adding “It’s about seeing the bigger picture.”
“I think a lot of other non-European countries will be queuing up to trade with us.”
The law student fighting Brexit fatigue
Connor Crosbie, 21, works at family-run seafood stall in Romford Market and is studying law.
More than one month after the referendum, Leave voter Connor Crosbie is starting to feel “Brexited out.”
“I think everyone’s getting slightly bored of the Brexit coverage,” he says, adding “There’s been sooo much talk of it.”
After intense debates on the pros and cons with his university friends in the lead up to the referendum, Crosbie has no regrets about his decision to vote Leave.
He thinks May is an “all right” choice for British prime minister, but is more enthusiastic about the idea of Johnson as foreign secretary.
“I like Boris,” he says. “I think he’ll do a good job because he fought and campaigned massively for Brexit.”
As for Crosbie’s law course next year, the subject matter is now a little more up in the air.
“I was going to do competition between the UK and the EU,” he says with a chuckle. “We’ll see how that pans out.”