Support Intelligent, In-Depth, Trustworthy Journalism.
Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking an extension for the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, after failing three times to get Parliament to agree to her proposal. Now some Brexit supporters are afraid their country’s separation from the EU will never happen. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports on the mood in Gravesham, a district south of London, which voted to leave.
And now we return to the trials and tribulations of Brexit, as Prime Minister Theresa May looks to secure an extension to the United Kingdom's departure date from the European Union.
Having watched three times as Mrs. May failed to persuade Parliament to accept her divorce deal, many people who voted to leave the E.U. fear that Brexit will never happen.
Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant has been assessing the mood in Gravesham in Kent, a district southeast of London represented by a hard-core Brexiteer member of Parliament.
Here, Brexit moves to the bhangra beat, the favored dance of the Sikhs, believers in the world's ninth largest religion from Punjab in India.
In the 2016 referendum, Sikhs followed the national trend, supporting Brexit by a small majority. The stalemate frustrates them as much as the rest of Britain.
We are being played by Europe. And my move next would be to basically say, no deal, walk away and Brexit. That's how I voted. That's how Britain voted. Let's get out.
We meet businesswoman Kindi Kaur at the largest Sikh temple outside India. In Gravesham, the Sikhs are respected for their hard work, self-reliance and generosity.
Kaur is a member of Theresa May's Conservative Party, but believes the prime minister's negotiating stance with Europe has been hopeless.
They are playing us for idiots. They think we're desperate. They think our government's falling to bits. They think we're desperate.
But we need to show them we're not desperate. We mean business. Let's say, no deal, we're walking away. Then watch them. Watch them come after us.
At his charity ball, Gravesham's mayor banned talk of politics, but we elicited a couple of opinions.
I'm thinking of giving up voting. I'm thinking of giving up politics, because it's really annoyed me, and you can't do anything about it. If your vote is wasted, if they won't listen to you, why vote?
I worry that the next extension will — it will just get so softened that it won't actually be the Brexit that people have voted for, 17.5 million people ignored.
You're messing this country up. You're messing a beautiful country up which I love. You lot need sorting out, because you don't know what you're doing.
At a working-class flea market, a vendor has harsh words for Adam Holloway, a former army officer and Gravesham's Conservative member of Parliament, a hard-core Brexiteer who has rebelled against Theresa May.
And if you don't know what you're doing, what can we do?
I know what I'm doing. I'm standing up for the 65 percent of people here who voted to leave the E.U., and I'm not signing up to something that's to Brexit in name only, which was cooked up in Brussels by Theresa May and E.U. officials, with hardly any input from British ministers.
But some analysts believe Brexiteers like Holloway must shoulder the blame if Britain fails to leave the E.U.
I think we have lost for the time being. But I don't see this as being something of this month or this year or whatever else.
I mean, if Mrs. May succeeds, and if Parliament succeeds in thwarting the will of the people here, then there'll be an anger in this land, you know, and we will have to come back to it.
If Britain doesn't come out, how much responsibility do you think that you will have to bear for voting against the prime minister's deal because you want such a pure Brexit? Isn't her deal the best one that's on offer? Shouldn't you accept it?
Well, her deal isn't Brexit. The prime minister's deal is worse than remaining inside the European Union. It means that we become a rule-taker with no say over great swathes. We risk the union with Northern Ireland.
Roma immigrants are especially concerned about Brexit. The Roma have been persecuted for centuries. Hundreds of thousands were murdered during the Holocaust. They have found sanctuary in Gravesham, where they compete for low-paid jobs.
But they're conscious that many Britons voted for Brexit in order to stop immigration from Eastern Europe. Spokesman Dezider Horvath:
People are scared because they think they send everybody home.
In a week celebrating Roma identity, Peter Pollak, a politician from Slovakia, came to Gravesham to raise their flag.
Peter Pollak (through translator):
Brexit is the result of extremism and populism. There are many more extremists and populists in other European countries, and they are much more aggressive than those in Britain. Brexit is a great opportunity for these extremists to try to break up the European Union.
With Parliament hopelessly divided and unable to reach agreement on Brexit, Britain has lost control over its own destiny. Its immediate future will be determined by the 27 countries from whom it wanted to obtain independence.
Most analysts agree that Britain will be allowed to stay within the bloc until it's able to make up its own mind what it wants to do. If not, and the E.U. has lost patience, then Britain could crash out of the Union without a deal on Friday.
But social commentator Rod Liddle fears Brexit is doomed.
I think, when Brexit doesn't happen, there will be a sullen resignation among the working-class people in this country. This was their opportunity to say to the liberal elite which runs the country, we don't want this. This is us shouting, we do not want this.
And they have been denied that. So I don't think there'll be riots on the street. We don't kind of do that sort of thing over here, but there will be an enormous corrosive effect on democracy, upon people's faith in the democratic system.
Back at the Sikh temple, a sumptuous wedding is under way. Happiness prevails. But one guest, Simran Sidhu, despairs of the ugliness that Brexit has generated.
I have had racist graffiti on my car, so my daughter can see it from her baby seat in the back. And these kind of incidents aren't isolated. They're happening more and more to me, to my family, to people that I know.
I fear that, as this carries on, the negative economic consequences of Brexit are going to be blamed, as they often are, on people who seem like the other, people who seem a bit different. And all of those things, in my opinion, are antithetical for the entire concept of the E.U.
At the dance school, Bonita Bedi worries that she will be unable to protect her children from increased anti-immigrant sentiment and an uncertain future.
People are thinking, we have won now. Basically, you can clear off. And that's what they want. They want to get back what was great. But they can still have that. I don't just want to survive. I want to thrive.
And that's the problem. I think people say, oh, we will cope, we will cope.
I don't want to cope. I want to carrying on thriving.
For the young bhangra dancers, this is a defining week that will determine their future freedom of movement, whether they will be identified as citizens of Europe or just of Brexit Britain.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Malcolm Brabant in Gravesham, Kent.
Watch the Full Episode
Malcolm Brabant is a special correspondent for the PBS NewsHour.
Support Provided By:
Support PBS NewsHour:
Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.