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Jan. 12, 2019, 10:05 AM GMT
By Rachel Elbaum
RAMSGATE, England — Stuart Piper is enthusiastically awaiting Britain’s looming departure from the European Union.
He is not alone in this corner of England. Nearly 64 percent of people in Thanet, the administrative district that includes the once-thriving port town of Ramsgate, supported leaving in the 2016 referendum.
Since then, both the government and experts have predicted that Brexit will result in the U.K. being worse off.
The Bank of England has warned that a “disorderly” scenario — involving severe delays at U.K. borders and financial markets’ loss of confidence in British institutions — could shrink the British economy as much as 8 percent in about a year, with the value of the pound tumbling 25 percent, and house prices falling by 30 percent.
Britain will leave the 28-country bloc on March 29 — but with only 76 days to go, lawmakers are bitterly divided about the proposed divorce agreement, meaning a “no-deal” Brexit without any arrangement for future trade is the default option.
Ramsgate is in some ways similar to the U.S. Rust Belt towns that embraced President Donald Trump.
The city of approximately 50,000 people is home to some of the most deprived areas in England.
It was once a busy port, with vessels shuttling both goods and people to mainland Europe, but that stopped in 2013 when its ferry operator went bankrupt.
With a “no-deal” Brexit looming, Ramsgate has been in the news. At the end of December, the government awarded a $18 million contract to a shipping company to operate ferries from Ramsgate to Ostend, a city on the Belgian coast, in the event of a backlog at the nearby port of Dover.
However, it was later found that the company does not own any ships.
A sign opposite the abandoned passenger terminal at the Port of Ramsgate.Toby Melville / Reuters
It’s the kind of incident that feeds the public’s mistrust in government, according to Steve Coombes, the chairman of the Ramsgate Action Group, a nonpolitical residents’ organization.
Equally, for a town that has seen years of decline, it was hard for residents to see the benefits of remaining an E.U. member.
“The E.U. never bothered to explain to places like Ramsgate what use they are,” said Coombes, a TV scriptwriter who voted to remain in the E.U. “If they had done so, things might have been different.”
Britain contributed a net amount of around 350 billion pounds ($446 billion) to the E.U. annually, but the bloc has supported projects in Thanet with tens of millions of dollars in funding.
“Ramsgate feels far from Brussels and equally as far from London,” Coombes added.