HOLY­HEAD ON BREXIT: ‘WE WERE MIS­LED’

The Welsh port, in Bri­tain’s poor­est re­gion, voted Leave in 2016. Now, some res­i­dents are hav­ing sec­ond thoughts. Oth­ers re­main staunch Eu­roscep­tics

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - Patrick Freyne

In Holy­head, even Santa voted to leave the Euro­pean Union. Santa’s other name is Richard Bur­nell. He’s 78 with a long white beard and he formerly worked in lo­cal gov­ern­ment. This Christ­mas he will dress in a red suit and give presents to chil­dren on the Stena Line ferry.

“I think the idea of the EC [ Euro­pean Com­mu­nity] com­mon mar­ket was fine,” says Santa. “But when it got to the stage that they wanted to rule the coun­try, to gov­ern us, I think this is what the peo­ple of Bri­tain have kicked up against. We’ve got our own l aws which go back hun­dreds of years.”

Bur­nell’s friend Beryl Warner also voted Leave. “In my opin­ion we were mis­led,” she says. “I’ve been do­ing vol­un­tary work all my life, es­pe­cially in the hos­pi­tals … We were told we would have £30 mil­lion more for the NHS, and that’s what re­ally prompted me to say leave. I would change my mind now.”

Bur­nell is more op­ti­mistic. “There was a big fish­ing com­mu­nity in Holy­head,” he says. “When the EC was formed, it van­ished. And when we do get back to Bri­tain we will have our trawl­ing wa­ters back … It’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge, no doubt about it, but it’s a big world out there. We can trade with the rest of the world.”

Do peo­ple dis­cuss Brexit? “No,” says Warner. “No. I think that we didn’t know enough about it. We didn’t un­der­stand what was hap­pen­ing. Well, I for one didn’t ... Did you get the gist of it all?”

“No,” says Bur­nell. “There were so many dif­fer­ent sto­ries go­ing around, you just had to pick the best bit out of all the sto­ries and hope for the best re­ally.”

Would he still vote the same way? He would, he says. “When you see what’s hap­pen­ing in Europe now, all the im­mi­gra­tion and what have you.”

But Santa knows no bor­ders, right? He laughs. “No bor­ders at all. Those rein­deers fly un­der the radar.”

I didn’t want to bring it up, but if there’s a no- deal Brexit next year, Santa and his rein­deer will be sub­ject to cus­toms checks along with ev­ery­one else. The fear for Welsh politi­cians – Leavers and Re­main­ers alike – is that, faced with such checks, Holy­head will be swamped by un­sus­tain­able traf­fic jams.

This would lead, they fear, to Ir­ish hauliers go­ing via North­ern Ire­land to Scot­land or from Dublin to ports with larger hin­ter­lands such as Liver­pool, or, at worst, by­pass­ing the UK “land bridge” en­tirely to ship di­rectly to Europe. Holy­head is the sec­ond busiest roll-on, roll-off ferry port in the UK.

About two mil­lion pas­sen­gers, 423,000 lor­ries and 500,000 tons of cargo pass through each year.

‘Ev­ery­one’s had enough of Brexit’

And yet the peo­ple of Holy­head voted to leave. In fact, lo­cal Plaid Cymru coun­cil­lor Vaughan Wil­liams tells me that with­out Holy­head’s strong Leave vote, An­gle­sey as a whole would have cho­sen Re­main.

Alun Roberts works with the com­mu­nity owned re­gen­er­a­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion Mon CF and is chair of the Holy­head Busi­ness Fo­rum. “It’s very, very weird,” he says. “I have col­leagues whose jobs are 100 per cent Euro­pean-funded who voted to come out. And I ask them why and they say, ‘ I couldn’t tell you. Just gut feel­ing.’ ”

In gen­eral, he says, peo­ple in Holy­head don’t talk about Brexit. “When we go to the lo­cal shops it’s not the topic of con­ver­sa­tion. It’s the weather. It’s the im­pact of de­vel­op­ments on park­ing, street light­ing ... They’re the things that pop up on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, not the im­pact of Brexit, which is a strange anom­aly.”

Roberts thinks that when the Euro­pean So­cial Fund money dries up, peo­ple will no­tice. Hun­dreds of mil­lions of pounds’ worth of Euro­pean money have gone into the town in the past few decades, he says. “If you told lo­cal peo­ple they’d be stag­gered.”

Much of this went into the port, but it also went into roads, the Celtic Gate­way foot­bridge and lo­cal re­gen­er­a­tion pro- jects. “I just can­not ex­plain [ Brexit] to you,” says Roberts, be­fore tak­ing us to visit a cou­ple of lo­cal busi­ness peo­ple. “Maybe it’s the psy­che of lo­cal peo­ple. Eco­nom­i­cally this town, if you take the port out of the equa­tion, has been de­prived for quite some time now ... We’re re­ally iso­lated and we’ve got the low­est value econ­omy of any county in the United King­dom and have done for a very long time.

“What does com­ing out of Europe mean? Prob­a­bly peo­ple think it won’t make any dif­fer­ence be­cause it can’t get any worse.”

“I think ev­ery­one’s had enough of the word ‘Brexit’, to be hon­est with you,” says the post­mas­ter, Ian Ash­worth. “You tend to switch off or turn over the page when some­thing is about Brexit … No one re­ally knows what’s go­ing to hap­pen. We’re get­ting re­ports that there are go­ing to be queues all the way up the A55. Whether that’ll be the case, who knows?” He also notes that be­fore the elec­tion the Re­main side pre­dicted plum­met­ing mar­kets and Ar­maged­don. “That never hap­pened.”

How did he vote? “I was 50-50 but in the end I wanted to stay in Europe be­cause I be­lieve Wales ben­e­fits mas­sively from Euro­pean fund­ing,” he says. “I don’t think that will be made as read­ily avail­able from West­min­ster as it was from Europe.” He ges­tures to­wards the street. “The shops that you see have been done up and all the fronts have been done up … They’ve been helped with EU fund­ing.”

‘In all hon­esty, it’s a mess’

Why did Holy­head vote to leave? “I think in the be­gin­ning, it was all about im­mi­gra­tion, wasn’t it? And re­al­is­ti­cally that boat has sailed. These peo­ple were in this coun­try 20, 30 years ago. They’ve had chil­dren here. To say we’re go­ing to throw them all out is un­re­al­is­tic.”

De­spite his own quib­bles, he now thinks there might be some ben­e­fits to Brexit. “I think if they brought back duty- free it would be bril­liant for us from a busi­ness point of view. The amount of peo­ple it would bring over from the cross­ings to Ire­land.”

What would hap­pen if they ran the vote again? “My fa­ther voted to get out and now he says he’d vote to stay in only be­cause he wasn’t made aware of the dis­cus­sion of the hard bor­der.”

But this time Ash­worth would can­cel him out. “I voted to stay in but [ if] we had an­other vote out of prin­ci­ple I’d vote to get out be­cause you can’t keep vot­ing… Let’s make it best out of three. Let’s make it best out of five.”

He shrugs. “It’s a mess isn’t it? In all hon­esty, it’s a mess.”

Across the road in the craft shop LL65, He­len Evans says no­body re­ally talks about Brexit any more. “Peo­ple seemed to lose in­ter­est.”

How did she vote? “My ini­tial view was, yes we need to come out for the sake of the coun­try. Re­ally, I think we’ve kind of been mis­led by the press. You watch the news and they were telling you that Bri­tain has all these il­le­gal im­mi­grants flood­ing over here … It was on the news ev­ery night in the run-up to the ac­tual vot­ing and I was think­ing, ‘Surely we’ve got no choice if we want to save our NHS?’ In hind­sight, I do feel that we were led like lambs to a slaugh­ter.”

Why? “Be­cause from what I can gather I don’t think they thought it was go­ing to go through. I mean the next day the prime min­is­ter stands down … What sort of mes­sage is that send­ing to peo­ple? It’s just go­ing to send them into panic, which I think they’ve been in ever since.”

‘I have changed my­mind, yeah’

Did she think about how it might af­fect the port? “You know what? No. Not at all … We would have a lot of peo­ple com­ing through who come on the ferry and would come into town in the car and then have a cup of tea and have a quick look around the shops.”

So she changed her mind? “I think I have, yeah, and I think a lot of peo­ple have changed their minds … Peo­ple are pan­icked again be­cause now it’s like we re­ally don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen any more. It’s gone from one type of panic to a dif­fer­ent type of panic.”

So now she’s not so wor­ried about im­mi­gra­tion but she wor­ries about the fu­ture of the port. She wor­ries about peace in North­ern Ire­land. She wor­ries about the NHS not be­ing able to re­cruit nec­es­sary peo­ple abroad.

She tells me a lit­tle about her life and her shop. She is a fash­ion and tex­tiles grad­u­ate and al­ways wanted to do some­thing cre­ative. Then she did an evening class in jew­ellery mak­ing, started mak­ing pieces out of sea glass and set up this busi­ness eight years ago with the help of a pro­gramme called the Empty Shops Ini­tia­tive.

This pro­ject was de­liv­ered in its later years by Mon CF, the partly EU-funded or­gan­i­sa­tion that Alun Roberts works for. She laughs. “I know it’s crazy,” she says. “I think that’s the thing. You only have to

I have col­leagues who voted to come out whose jobs are 100 per cent Euro­pean-funded” – Alun Roberts I don’t think it will af­fect me. We don’t talk pol­i­tics in the shop” – Irene Ed­wards The EU has been a neg­a­tive, not a pos­i­tive” – Shaun Red­mond If they brought back duty-free, it’d be bril­liant” – Ian Ash­worth My ini­tial view was we need to come out. In hind­sight, we were led like lambs to a slaugh­ter” – He­len Evans

look around Holy­head to see how much of it is EU-funded. It’s ev­ery­where you look.”

On the walls of WG Ed­wards fish­mon­ger shop, there are pho­tos of WG him­self man­ning a har­poon on the whal­ing ship he helped crew in the 1930s. His daugh­ter, Irene, over­sees his shop now.

Bal­anc­ing on a walk­ing stick, she tells me about the whal­ing crews that left Holy­head in the 1930s when there was very lit­tle work in the town. Her grand­sons still work on the boats. She won­ders if fish­ing might make a come­back in the af­ter­math of Brexit but she didn’t vote and says she has no view on it. “I don’t think it will af­fect me,” she says.

When politi­cians come around, she says, she warns them, “We don’t talk pol­i­tics in the shop.”

Irene Ed­wards is not the only per­son who’s dis­en­gaged with pol­i­tics. Out on the street I meet a Leave sup­porter who didn’t vote (“It was rain­ing and I had a few beers in”) and a sim­i­larly un­mo­ti­vated cafe owner who is now con­cerned for her busi­ness. “You prob­a­bly think I’m ter­ri­ble.”

I meet a young man named Hwyel Hughes at­tach­ing a poppy pin to his long black trench coat as he leaves a Bri­tish Le­gion shop. “I’m march­ing for Re­mem­brance Sun­day,” he says. “I did three years in the army. I’ve lost fel­low com­rades.”

He didn’t vote ei­ther, but he feels “we should have left a long time ago. I think it will give those who are un­em­ployed a bet­ter chance to work. I’m un­em­ployed and it’s very hard for me.”

Does he re­ally think it will help? He laughs. “Well, no. It’s prob­a­bly not go­ing to give us any­thing we need. I just hope it does.”

Some­one calls him from The Ge­orge pub across the road. “Ma­trix!” shouts the man. “Come here, Ma­trix.” I f ol­low Hughes over to where a man with a tat­too of a pan­ther on his neck tells me he won’t give me his name but that I can call him “Sir”.

“But I’m hav­ing an in­ter­view about Brexit,” says Hughes.

“Here’s an in­ter­view,” says his friend. “How about, ‘ I don’t give a f** k?’ I don’t vote. I don’t be­lieve in it … I don’t like pol­i­tics.” So in­stead we talk about his rel­a­tives who live in Drum­con­dra.

In the town peo­ple talk more about the pro­posed Wylfa Newydd Nu­clear Power Plant that will, if ap­proved, em­ploy thou­sands in its con­struc­tion phase, than they talk about Brexit. The port, in con­trast, em­ploys only about 500 peo­ple, and the eco­nomic ben­e­fits don’t al­ways flow into town, with much of the traf­fic by­pass­ing it al­most en­tirely. The town it­self has also suf­fered, like many oth­ers, due to out-of-town shop­ping cen­tres.

But there are other signs of growth that lo­cals keep point­ing to­wards – port ex­pan­sion, new gi­ant fer­ries on the Dublin-Holy­head route, a new Pre­mier Inn across the road from the Road­king Truck­stop where I’m stay­ing, not to men­tion a 78-room ho­tel ex­ten­sion to that truck stop. And sev­eral peo­ple look for­ward to the re­turn of the duty free.

In many ways Holy­head looks health­ier than it has looked in years.

‘If there’s chaos there’s op­por­tu­nity’

The Road­king Truck­stop lies just out­side Holy­head on the A55, and for the past three years most of the truck driv­ers by­pass the town and go straight there to eat, sleep and re­fuel. Paint­ings of ships and trucks grace the walls of the din­ing room, where truck driv­ers from all over the world eat the huge “Megga Break­fast”.

The owner Fred “Bet­fred” Done is gung-ho about how Brexit will be good for busi­ness. The manag­ing direc­tor, Ni­cholas What­more, is a lit­tle more mea­sured, ac­knowl­edg­ing that a hard exit could be dam­ag­ing but notes that this could be off­set by the de­vel­op­ment of the nu­clear power plant. “Wher­ever there’s chaos there’ll be op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he says

Af­ter a night’s sleep in a tiny room, I eat a frac­tion of my Megga Break­fast and talk to three Dutch truck driv­ers. John Kool­hout is wear­ing a Union Jack T-shirt and a base­ball hat. He laughs. “When I leave, T- shirt comes off. Then maybe I buy an Ir­ish T-shirt with sham­rocks on it.”

What do they make of Brexit? “No­body knows what is go­ing to hap­pen,” says Kool­hout. “I have heard a story that in Hol­land they make a new har­bour di­rect to Dublin.”

They are Euroscep­ti­cal in their own way. They think the EU is too big and should go back to be­ing a smaller pool of coun­tries but they think Bri­tain’s choice to leave is self-de­struc­tive. “They’ve got noth­ing,” says Kool­hout. “No car in­dus­try any more. Hud­der­s­field is in the past. Ev­ery­thing is gone.”

Do the truck­ers ever spend time in the town? “You can’t park,” says Kool­hout. “And it’s too far to walk.”

“We’re not made for walk­ing,” says a younger driver, Dono­van Ver­schoor.

“Just to the beer tap,” says Kool­hout, throw­ing his thumb at the bar.

‘We­pay £300m a day into the EU’

The Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle pub stands just out­side the ferry port and ben­e­fits a lot from pass­ing port traf­fic. The Lon­don-born owner, Hugh Wil­liams, sits near a stove and tells me how he built his busi­ness with carver­ies and karaoke and by let­ting rooms to ferry trav­ellers. He voted Leave.

Why? “We need some­body in gov­ern­ment who stops giv­ing our hard- earned money away,” he says. He tells me of a list he’s seen on Face­book that itemises how much money the UK gives to other coun­tries while, he says, the NHS strug­gles. “I only know what I’m told,” he says, “But we pay £300 mil­lion a day into the EU.”

I sug­gest that this is in­ac­cu­rate but also that any in­vest­ment into the EU ar­guably frees the way for more money to be made in trade. He laughs. The Ger­mans won’t stop sell­ing their cars to Bri­tain, he says, and he tells me about the var­i­ous de­vel­op­ments hap­pen­ing around the town – ex­pan­sion of the Road­king truck­stop, the new Pre­mier Inn, the pro­posed nu­clear power sta­tion.

Would he not miss EU fund­ing for the town? He’s not re­ally aware of any. He thinks they were of­fered some money a few years ago but turned it down.

Do they talk about Brexit in the pub? “I call it ‘the fly in the oint­ment’. I say, ‘Let’s talk about Brexit’ and they say ‘Ah, here we go.’ Then I say, ‘ Now re­li­gion’. He chuck­les. “It’s just a thing I do. En­ter­tain­ment value. I had two guys rant­ing at each other one day about Is­rael.”

“Ev­ery­one we speak to wants out,” says his wife, Mar­cia, who has joined us. “The lo­cals are very much for putting the EU money back into the NHS, into the schools, into the po­lice, into ev­ery­thing that’s im­por­tant to us.”

What if a hard bor­der re­sults in re­duced port traf­fic? “I don’t see it,” says Hugh.

The Juice Box vape shop is a hub of po­lit­i­cal de­bate by any stan­dards. I thought peo­ple didn’t talk about Brexit in town. “He does,” says tat­tooed shop-owner Rob Hartin, point­ing at his cus­tomer, 48- year- old elec­tri­cian Craig Mansell.

“Ev­ery­one else has given up,” says Mansell.

Hartin and his busi­ness part­ner, Daniel Sar­gent, voted to leave but have lately changed their minds.

“I call them my ‘con­verts’,” says Mansell, and then he be­gins an anal­y­sis of Brexit. He talks about how the UK gov­ern­ment al­ways had con­trol over im­mi­gra­tion de­spite the EU. He talks about how the Belfast Agree­ment might be jeop­ar­dised by a hard Brexit. He talks about Ar­ron Banks and the il­le­gal cam­paign ac­tiv­ity of his Leave.EU cam­paign. He talks about how the NHS is un­der pres­sure not from im­mi­grants but from un­der­fund­ing. He ref­er­ences Fin­tan O’Toole of this news­pa­per. He con­cludes, with a flour­ish, “For cry­ing out loud, when will peo­ple wake the f**k up?”

At this point Sar­gent and Hartin are shak­ing their heads and laugh­ing. “So he talks about it,” says Hartin.

Why the wide­spread dis­in­ter­est? “An­gle­sey has its own lit­tle cli­mate go­ing on,” says Mansell. “They don’t re­ally look be­yond the bridge and when they do look be­yond the bridge it’s Spain for a hol­i­day … This is­land has suf­fered from a lack of in­vest­ment for years.”

Hartin and Sar­gent are Cor­byn-sup­port­ing for­mer Lex­i­teers ( left- lean­ing Brex­i­teers). They don’t care about im­mi­gra­tion but they do lament the Lis­bon treaty, worry about an en­croach­ing Euro­pean su­per­state and, on a more per­sonal level, dis­like how the EU has leg­is­lated va­p­ing prod­ucts.

Mansell, in con­trast, has a busi­ness selli ng drones, and 80 per cent of hi s cus­tomers are in Europe. “If I lose that mar­ket, my re­tire­ment is gone.”

Both Hartin and Sar­gent would vote Re­main if they were given the op­por­tu­nity to vote again. Why? “Be­cause it’s a sham­bles,” says Hartin.

Sar­gent says that ini­tially he thought the gov­ern­ment were “pur­posely cock­ing Brexit up” in or­der to ma­nip­u­late peo­ple into be­ing more EU- friendly. “But as it gets closer and closer I start to think, ‘No, maybe they’re just in­ept.’ ”

And Mansell is an­gry. “I did my stretch for beat­ing up a cop­per dur­ing the poll tax marches. I don’t give a damn and I will quite hap­pily stand and I will do it again over bloody Europe,” he says. In the mean­time he has a T-shirt that he’s been for­bid­den to wear at work. What does it say? “Bol­locks to Brexit.”

‘Peo­ple will suf­fer no mat­ter what’

An­gle­sey is, ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of Na­tional Statis­tics, the poor­est part of the UK with the low­est GVA ( gross value added) fig­ures in the coun­try. They’ve seen ma­jor in­dus­tries come and go. It used to be a cen­tre for ship build­ing. The once big­gest em­ployer An­gle­sey Alu­minium stopped op­er­a­tions in 2009.

The food bank on Thomas Street is open for three days a week to cater to peo­ple who have fallen be­tween the cracks or been “sanc­tioned” and had their ben­e­fits stopped. In the food bank they don’t talk about Brexit. They talk in­stead about how the new uni­ver­sal credit wel­fare pol­icy might fur­ther dis­ad­van­tage peo­ple.

Richard, one of the vol­un­teers, is out of work him­self. He has the sym­bol for di­a­betes tat­tooed on his arm but never had it coloured (“It’s not a colour­ful ill­ness, is it?”). He was a Leave voter. “Be­cause I am Bri­tish,” he says. “I’m not from Brus­sels. We should have our own laws, our own rules. I don’t think Bri­tain should be gov­erned by an­other coun­try.”

Does he think politi­cians have han­dled Brexit well? He does not. “They’re all in a ma­jor panic now.”

But he doesn’t re­gret his vote and he doesn’t think Brexit will make a dif­fer­ence to peo­ple at the food bank. “Peo­ple will suf­fer no mat­ter what.”

Fel­low vol­un­teer Gwyneth He­wit­son, a re­tired teacher, de­spairs of the Leave vote. She thinks peo­ple were swayed by pro­pa­ganda on the sides of buses but didn’t have ac­cess to real in­for­ma­tion. “Be­fore the vote I kept telling peo­ple, ‘We got this be­cause of Europe, we got that be­cause of Europe.’”

She says that it’s not a wealthy town and that peo­ple’s hori­zons are nar­row. “We took some chil­dren for a hol­i­day for a week,” she says. “When we got to the bridge leav­ing An­gle­sey they asked were we at Dover.”

Ac­cord­ing to Welsh As­sem­bly mem­ber Rhun ap Ior­w­erth, a pas­sion­ate Re­main cam­paigner who would like to see a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, there was no real lo­cal cam­paign to leave. “There was a Ukip shop on the high street for 18 months but I don’t think I ever saw any­one there.”

Even the main ref­er­en­dum talk­ing point, im­mi­gra­tion, has lit­tle rel­e­vance for An­gle­sey, which has a non-UK-born pop­u­la­tion of about 3 per cent ( though that doesn’t stop im­mi­gra­tion be­ing a key is­sue for some peo­ple I speak to).

So why did peo­ple vote to leave? “I think it was a 20-year cam­paign of pro­pa­ganda against the EU,” he says. “Holy­head was typ­i­cal of many of the places that voted to leave and didn’t give con­sid­er­a­tion to the prac­ti­cal­i­ties. It’s an EU bor­der fron­tier town but that didn’t re­ally mat­ter. It’s the kind of place that felt it had been left be­hind eco­nom­i­cally, the kind of place that wanted and felt that it had good rea­son to protest against – the best way to put it is ‘things’ – and voted to leave.”

I ar­rive at the tail end of a meet­ing of a Holy­head Port Users group meet­ing held at the seafront head­quar­ters of the Sea Cadets. It in­volves lo­cal politi­cians, port man­ager Wyn Parry, ferry op­er­a­tors, lifeboat op­er­a­tors, peo­ple from the ma­rina and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the unions. All but the politi­cians rush off into the rain be­fore I can pi­geon­hole them.

Rhun ap Ior­w­erth in­tro­duces me briefly to Welsh Labour MP Al­bert Owen, who shares the gen­eral baf­fle­ment of most Re­main- in­clined politi­cians. “There were peo­ple work­ing in the ports who voted to leave,” he says. “Se­ri­ously, there were house­holds split down the mid­dle.”

Lo­cal in­de­pen­dent coun­cil­lor Shaun Red­mond is a firm sup­porter of Brexit. “I firmly be­lieve that the Euro­pean Union has been a neg­a­tive rather than a pos­i­tive over­all … We’re los­ing our democ­racy as a coun­try. We’ve be­come sub­servient to Europe in vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing.”

But what if there’s a cus­toms bor­der be­tween the UK and Ire­land? “There’s no need for a hard bor­der with Ire­land,” he says. “Tech­nol­ogy can deal with all the is­sues. I firmly be­lieve the na­tions of Europe will come to their senses.” Those coun­tries need UK trade, he says.

In­deed, he sees huge op­por­tu­ni­ties for the port. “With­out the re­stric­tions of Europe, we can de­velop the port of Holy­head into a far more in­ter­na­tional port and bring in goods and ser­vices from the whole world rather than just be­ing re­stricted by Euro­pean traf­fic.”

Is that re­al­is­tic? He smiles. “If you haven’t got any am­bi­tion you’ll never get any­where.”

‘My nan wanted to make Bri­tain great’

At a class­room at Holy­head High School, Rhun ap Ior­w­erth gives a talk about pol­i­tics to Tris­tian Grif­fiths’s Year 9 English class. They’re all roughly 13 years old. They have pre­pared top­ics to dis­cuss and Grif­fiths gen­tly en­cour­ages them from the side­lines when nec­es­sary.

Here’s what they have to say about Brexit: “I’m an­gry be­cause I might not be able to travel now,” says one girl.

Ja­camo, who wants to be a travel writer, says he wor­ries about medicines not be­ing de­liv­ered to the NHS.

“I think it’s go­ing to af­fect Holy­head, be­cause of our route to Dublin with the ferry,” says a sec­ond girl. “It’s go­ing to af­fect food and com­pany links and all that.”

I ask them what they have heard other peo­ple say­ing about Brexit. “[ My mum] thought we’d get the money we’d have to spend if we stayed in the EU,” says one girl.

“My mum voted Re­main be­cause she’s a nurse and she thought would be bet­ter for hos­pi­tals,” says a girl called Carla.

El­lie’s mum voted Leave “be­cause there’ll be less terrorism and we’ll be more se­cure and have more money to spend on the NHS”.

“My nan voted to leave be­cause she wanted to make Great Bri­tain great again,” says an­other girl, “but I don’t re­ally know what she meant by that.” Ev­ery­one laughs.

We take a show of hands to see who in the class sup­ports Re­main. All of them put their hands up.

Above: res­i­dents of Holy­head on An­gle­sey, Wales give their take on Brexit and the pos­si­ble im­pact on the town. PHO­TO­GRAPHS: ENDA O’DOWD

The port town of Holy­head, Wales. Be­low left: Welsh As­sem­bly mem­ber Rhun ap Ior­w­erth gives a talk about pol­i­tics to Tris­tian Grif­fiths’s Year 9 English class at Holy­head High School. PHO­TO­GRAPHS: GETTY & ENDA O’DOWD

Video Enda O’Dowd meets the peo­ple of Holy­head irish­times.com

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