Local Brits react to Brexit results

A local father and son who stood on different sides of the United Kingdom's Brexit referendum were absorbing the news Friday of a narrow victory for the "leave" campaign.

Matthew Seymour
Matthew Seymour

A local father and son who stood on different sides of the United Kingdom's Brexit referendum were absorbing the news Friday of a narrow victory for the "leave" campaign.

Matt Seymour is a dual citizen who has lived in Brainerd for more than 13 years. He owns several gas stations in the Brainerd area, including Pine Square, College Square, Raceway Square and Nitro Square. He said he's never been a fan of the European Union, which UK citizens voted to separate from Thursday.

"I think that regardless of whether you thought it was a social or political or economic benefit to stay within the EU, I think that everybody would recognize the EU had a very bad image," Seymour, 47, said. "It has an image of bureaucracy, of unelected officials, of wasteful spending and implementing rules and laws that a lot of people would not want to have over them."

Max Seymour, 17, said he was shocked by the results.

"I was actually expecting a narrow 'remain' victory," Max Seymour said. "I think economically, the UK has a stronger position remaining in the EU. ... I think it is going to be very problematic and expensive. I think it is going to make the UK less attractive for businesses and companies wanting to have European locations."


Although Max Seymour has never lived in the United Kingdom, he sports a decidedly British accent and a strong interest in the country from which his father hails.

"I have a lot of identity and family in the UK," Max Seymour said. "I do feel strongly for the UK. I'm concerned about its strength economically and politically."

The two represent the prevailing narrative of who stood where on the issue leading up to the national referendum-supporters of the "leave" campaign tended to be older, while those in support of "remain" skewed younger.

"I think a lot of the older generation, they feel the UK has kind of lost some of its power from the glory days, back when we used to be an empire," Max Seymour said. "They felt they wanted a UK that's more independent, and they believe that will make it into a stronger nation in the future. ... But I think the younger generation, they grew up in a society and a United Kingdom where they didn't join the EU. The EU has always been there. For them, it's kind of scary and uncomfortable."

For Matt Seymour, a role in how people decided to vote came down to emotions, particularly on the immigration issue.

"As I hear reports and I talk to people and I see other comments online, I don't know how educated everybody involved was," Matt Seymour said. "I think that's a feature of people's lifestyles, voting on the emotions versus the issues. I think you see that in politics in general, even here in the U.S."

Although Matt Seymour acknowledged this raised a valid question about whether the people should weigh in by referendum on such a complex issue, he dismissed the premise.

"I disagree with that, because to have more processes where the public is involved is the best chance of getting people educated," he said. "Although you could argue it's not the best process, it's still a process which is educating the general population."


As for what the future holds for the UK, Matt and Max agreed it's best to move on from here and begin to build a new future for the nation outside of the EU.

"Personally, I am not happy with the results, but I accept it," Max Seymour said. "I think at this point, the strongest way for the UK to react is to follow through with the results and to build its future toward an independent UK."

"Nobody really knows the implications of exiting the EU," Matt Seymour said. "They've got two years to work it out. I remain pretty confident in the drive to resolve any concerns, resolve any issues, get through any kind of difficulties. I'm not really worried about it. But that said, I think it's hard to be worried about something you don't know."

Another local Brit who earlier this week told the Dispatch he supported the "leave" campaign, said he was still surprised by the results. Travis Casey, an author who spent 22 years in England before moving back to the United States two years ago, said he thought the "remain" side would win out.

"I do think this gave a true reflection of how the British people felt," Casey said.

Casey said although he was pleased with the results, he was disheartened by Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to resign in the wake of the referendum. Cameron, who campaigned on allowing the UK's people to weigh in on the matter, was a strong supporter of remaining in the EU.

"I can understand that his heart wouldn't be in to champion a cause that he didn't believe in," Casey said. "I thought he was a good prime minister. He kept his word, which is rare for a politician."

Casey said over-regulation was a key personal factor in his support of exiting the EU. He and his wife owned a tea room in England in the early 2000s. One example was the forced change from the imperial system to the metric system for weights and measures.


"More and more and more, we saw this European legislation coming in that was strangling us and choking us," Casey said. "They were trying to get uniformity, but they didn't allow for individual cultures."

Casey foresees some potential animosity from other European countries toward the UK, but also expects other countries to test the waters of leaving the EU as well.

"Britain has had the guts, and they did it, and yeah, the people spoke," Casey said.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or . Follow on Twitter at .

Travis Casey poses at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport when interviewed in February 2015 about the release of one of his books. Dispatch file photo
Travis Casey poses at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport when interviewed in February 2015 about the release of one of his books. Dispatch file photo

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What To Read Next
Get Local


Must Reads