Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Dining across the divide: ‘I voted leave. In my industry, Brexit was quite beneficial’

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Chidi, 31, London

Occupation Bar owner and freelance bartender

Voting record Has voted Conservative, but at the time of the meeting was planning to vote Green

Amuse bouche Chidi once got stranded on an island in Finland. He had to walk six hours through a forest to the nearest village – “with a stick in case I had to fight off wolves”

Christian, 32, London

Occupation Accountant for a sausage-casing manufacturer

Voting record He started out Tory and went on to the Lib Dems. Labour this time

Amuse bouche He holds three different passports: British, Dutch and Australian

For starters

Christian I found Chidi affable and engaging. I was particularly impressed he asked for his old fashioned to be made with demerara sugar rather than syrup.

Chidi I find sugar syrup slimy; I can’t do slimy things. Christian and I got on really well, the conversation only stopped because the staff were closing up.

Christian We had oysters and I had a cured trout to start, then pork fillet with a herb garnish. Then a creme brulee, and an espresso for the road.

Chidi I had fish, as I’m pescatarian. For dessert, I had profiteroles with chocolate sauce and coffee ice-cream.

The big beef

Chidi I voted leave. In my industry, Brexit was quite beneficial because there’s been a loss of labour, which opened negotiations for higher wages.

Christian Chidi said his wage has gone up a lot since Brexit, but he did concede that those changes in the labour market could also have been because of the pandemic. There were also increases in national minimum wage.

Chidi Workers have also changed in the conditions they are willing to put up with. Now there’s a higher proportion of staff from all over the world: in a lot of other countries, hospitality is more upper-class, so they’re used to those environments being much nicer.

Christian My parents have a raspberry farm and were dependent on labour from within the EU. It’s not worth the time and effort of getting agricultural workers a visa when they can just go to Germany instead. So, my parents can’t grow raspberries any more. To make ends meet they rent it out to a larger operation that can afford to bring in workers from farther afield.

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Sharing plate

Chidi My vote for Brexit wasn’t to slow immigration but increase it from other parts of the world, and that’s what we’ve seen. I realise that’s exactly what a lot of Brexit voters didn’t want, and I was somewhat getting into bed with the enemy. My mum’s from Nigeria, my dad’s from Sierra Leone; I think it’s fairer to have immigration from Commonwealth countries, especially as historically the Commonwealth meant more wealth for Britain and less wealth for them.

Christian I sympathise with Chidi. There’s definitely an element of discrimination against non-EU citizens moving here. I grew up in Slough, which is very ethnically diverse. An Indian family moved in next door to some family friends in the 70s, and they introduced themselves with their CVs to show they were pharmacists and were opening their own business. The fact they felt the need to do that is a bit sad.

For afters

Christian I quite like that Keir Starmer has had an extensive career outside politics. Chidi has been on a few Gaza marches and felt that Starmer could have been more vocal in speaking out about what Israel is doing – we think he was trying to not annoy the Americans. But Chidi made a very interesting point that there are lots of countries in the global south even more dependent on the US and they’ve had no qualms about calling out the situation.

Chidi The Conservative position on Israel hasn’t surprised me, but Starmer is a human rights lawyer, has probably worked with a lot of the aid organisations being attacked, and he’s supportive of Israel. That’s not what we need at a time when trust in British politics is at an all-time low.


Christian I got his phone number. Normally in London people our age aren’t pro-Brexit, so it’s intriguing to understand what motivated people to vote that way.

Chidi I definitely took away how Brexit affected us differently. I also learned a lot about raspberries.

Additional reporting: Kitty Drake

Chidi and Christian ate at Quo Vadis in London.

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