Katie Holland is the Rotorua Daily Post deputy editor

Editorial: Britain on knife edge over EU call

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A campaigner wearing a Vote Leave t-shirt and holding a British Union Flag. Photo / Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg
A campaigner wearing a Vote Leave t-shirt and holding a British Union Flag. Photo / Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

It's a big day for the UK, a day that could have a huge impact on its future and, according to Winston Peters, the future of New Zealanders travelling to the UK.

On Thursday UK time, the nation will vote in a referendum deciding whether the country should stay in the European Union, or leave.

Latest reports are there is little between those in the "Brexit" camp and those that want to remain part of the EU.

It's a referendum that's seen at times bitter and angry debate in the UK, if the increasingly impassioned social media posts and opinion pieces I am seeing are anything to go by.

A frequent criticism is that the Brexit supporters are fixated on leaving in order to stem migration from Europe. As discussions on migration tend to do, that has brought an ugly xenophobic element into the debate.

Meanwhile Mr Peters - who has never been shy to share his views when it comes to migration - has attacked prime minister John Key for supporting David Cameron's "remain" camp.

Mr Peters reckons a leave vote is the best way of getting a better deal for Kiwis wanting to work in the UK.

But Mr Key doesn't think a leave vote would see these restrictions eased, presumably using the logic if the UK is trying to stop migrants from Europe, why would it want more New Zealanders.

Having had the privilege of living in Europe for nine years, including eight in London, I understand how important that right to work is for New Zealanders who want to travel, advance their careers and experience the culture of the UK and Europe.

But any Kiwi who makes the UK their temporary or permanent home does so just as much for its multiculturalism - how I miss sitting on the tube hearing a chatter of foreign languages around me - as for its traditional "Britishness".

It doesn't surprise me polls show its the younger generation more likely to vote stay, the older generation more likely to vote leave.

How many of the latter have thought past stopping European migrants "stealing our jobs" and getting back to a Britain that may be long gone, who knows.

We shall watch from afar, with much interest.

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