'Get on with it': English seaside town has Brexit message for PM May
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A poster urging people to leave the EU is seen in a field near Blackpool, Britain November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Phil Noble
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By Elisabeth O'Leary
BLACKPOOL, England (Reuters) - The message to Prime Minister Theresa May from this English seaside town rings loud and clear four months after it voted for Brexit: Britain should leave the European Union as soon as possible.
Many politicians and media are in uproar over a court ruling last week that May must consult parliament before holding formal divorce talks with the EU, potentially delaying their start.
The court's decision has upset Brexit supporters in Blackpool, a resort whose heyday has passed and which overwhelmingly backed leaving the EU in June. But the ruling, a slump in the pound and rise in some retail prices since the referendum have failed to dampen their fervor.
"I think they (the government) need to get a grip and get on with it," retail manager Emma Jones, 40, said outside the ornate Grand Theatre in Blackpool's main shopping center.
Likening Brexit opponents to babies, she said: "I think the remainders are stamping their feet and spitting out their dummies
Political squabbles in London have had little impact in Blackpool, a town about 250 miles (400 km) northwest of the capital where, as in many parts of Britain, voters were worried about immigration and a loss of sovereignty to the EU, and disillusioned with national politicians.
Some 68 percent of voters voted for Brexit in Blackpool, which still attracts millions of tourists each year to its sandy beaches, pier, theme park, tower, theaters and ballroom even though its Victorian grandeur has faded.
Their main concern now is that May overcomes obstacles to Brexit as quickly as possible, including the High Court ruling that parliament must have a say before she can trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to launch divorce talks.
"In June, we already voted to leave. There shouldn't be any laws or anything like that. We should just go ahead with it," said postman Dave Hudson, 41, on his rounds along the sea front.
Some newspapers called the ruling a betrayal of the public vote and have suggested lawmakers will block or water down the process. One described the three judges who made the ruling as "enemies of the people".
Nigel Farage, a Brexit campaigner and leader of the UK Independence Party, has even warned of street disturbances.
In Blackpool, plenty of people want faster progress towards Brexit but there is no sign of people turning to violence.
"I don't think there are going to be any riots if it doesn't happen, but people will get impatient," Hudson said. "For me it's got to be done proper, you can't just rush it."
About 52 percent of people who voted on June 23 supported leaving the EU and 48 percent wanted to stay. Some 45,146 of the 66,959 people who voted in Blackpool backed Brexit, making it the most eurosceptic place in northwestern England.
Like many seaside resorts still dependent on tourism, it has suffered in recent decades as Britons enjoyed cheap package holidays abroad. The Brexit camp hopes the pound's fall will persuade more Britons and foreigners to holiday in Britain, and are encouraged that the country attracted 2 percent more visitors in July compared to the same month last year.
The vote in Blackpool was heavily pro-Brexit even though Blackpool has benefited financially from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
In 2010, some 14 million pounds ($17.40 million) was provided for a 40-million pound facelift and redevelopment of its tourist attractions. The ERDF also contributed 3 million pounds towards improving the resort's sea defenses.
"The EU has been good for us and we benefited from it but I just want our country back," said Sonia Chatterjee, 64, who has lived in Blackpool for 40 years.
Asked about the High Court decision, she said: "We voted to go out. What's it got to do with them? We had a vote so why does parliament have to interfere? ... I'm not fearful (Brexit won't happen) but I wouldn't put it past any of them -- you never know what's going to happen with lawyers with politicians."
Government figures showed in 2015 that 20 percent of Blackpool's neighborhoods were in the most deprived one percent nationally, the highest proportion of any area in the country.
Some retail firms, including Britain's biggest maker of potato chips (crisps), have started raising prices since the pound's fall.
But there are no signs of regrets in Blackpool.
"I deal with companies in Germany and abroad and some suppliers have been saying prices will rise because of the drop in prices of the pound but they will stabilize," said Jackie Holden, 30, who runs a wool shop in nearby Fleetwood.
"I think a lot of it is fear-mongering. I take what I read in the papers with a pinch of salt."
($1 = 0.8047 pounds)
(Writing by Michael Holden, editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Timothy Heritage)
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