NOTTINGHAM, England (Reuters) - The debate over whether Britain should leave the European Union has divided society and split the government. In the Baxter family, it is pitting brother against brother.
Nigel and Ian Baxter worked together for 16 years at their father’s freight business before embarking on separate ventures, but they have opposite views about how Britain should vote in a June 23 referendum on EU membership.
“My view is, stay in, have influence,” said Ian, 49, whose Baxter Freight company employs 60 people and does most of its business in continental Europe.
Like many advocates of remaining in the 28-member bloc, Ian sees benefits for trade and worries that if Britain quit, customs procedures and tariffs would be re-imposed and would get in the way of doing business with the continent.
“Isn’t it better in life to try and collaborate with your neighbors rather than sit on the sidelines?” he told Reuters at the firm’s headquarters, on a main road circling the city of Nottingham in central England.
A short distance away on the other side of that road is his elder brother Nigel’s RH Commercial Vehicles, an official Renault Trucks dealership that employs more than 80 workers.
“I think Great Britain has a great opportunity as a result of this referendum ... to lift our eyes up, look up at the greater, wider world and forge a new situation ... in trade terms, in sovereignty terms,” said Nigel, 53.
Like other supporters of the so-called “Brexit” option, Nigel sees the EU as an unaccountable bureaucracy intent on imposing meddlesome regulations.
“What we don’t need is small businesses having to do risk assessments about moving a box of files from one side of the office to the other, to use an extreme example. It’s that sort of nit-picking legislation that I object to,” he said.
Fortunately, neither brother saw Europe as a threat to their relationship.
“We’re a fairly opinionated family,” said Nigel. “That provides us with some good robust debate ... a chance for a bit of barracking which is no bad thing in a family.”
Both brothers mentioned that whatever their views over Europe, their relationship was marked by a lifelong disagreement over another vital topic: Ian is an Arsenal fan, while Nigel supports Chelsea.
“He’s got very forceful views, a lot of them wrong of course,” said Nigel with a smile.
Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky