Dining across the divide: ‘He’s such a nice guy but supports Brexit. He’s young; it’s not normal’

Both have experienced being treated as outsiders in the UK, but can they broach one of Britain’s most divisive topics?

Batuhan, 25, Bournemouth


Occupation Support worker and neuropsychology research assistant
Voting record Batuhan is not eligible to vote in the UK. In the last Turkish local government elections, he voted for the centre-left Republican People’s party
Amuse bouche Huge fan of basketball; supports any team LeBron James is playing for

Ron, 60, Salisbury

Batuhan and Ron

Occupation Semi-retired; runs a mental health charity, Sporting Recovery
Voting record Votes Labour, except when Tony Blair was leader, when he voted Green or for the Socialist party
Amuse bouche Was the first black person in the country to be a football community development officer: that was in the 80s, for Millwall, where he received death threats

For starters

Batuhan We arrived at the same time. The first thing I realised was that he was wearing a traditional scarf from my home country. I said: “In the eastern part of Turkey, people wear this.” He said: “Yeah, I wore it on purpose.” He’d looked up my name. I thought that was really nice.

Ron I’ve been to Turkey a couple of times, and fell in love with the place. They like black people. Batuhan’s a nice guy, extremely clever. As I say in the trade, double-clever. I took the lead and ordered burgers for us.

Batuhan and Ron

The big beef

Batuhan I support Brexit. The idea behind it was to liberate the UK from taking on the debt of other countries. We are working here, and making money – why are we giving money to Greece and other European countries? We could spend that money here, for the children of England, Scotland or Wales, building new facilities. I supported Turkey joining the EU because of the passport exemptions; I thought it would ease the travel pressures. But it’s different for the UK. Turkey would have had more advantages than disadvantages from membership, whereas I think the opposite is true for the UK.

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Ron He’s such a nice guy, but supports Brexit, the so-and-so! He’s young; it’s not normal for a young guy to be pro-Brexit. When the Brexit vote happened, I felt I wasn’t wanted in this country, even though I was born here. It was just Johnson and Farage, selling their rhetoric, which was xenophobic. I think he took it on board.

Batuhan Right now, I think the EU is taking its revenge on the UK. And they will learn that England is not a country you can take revenge on.

Ron Not being funny, most people who voted for Brexit were quite thick.

Batuhan He said something offensive about the English people, that I do not want to repeat. We agreed we need people from other countries to work in healthcare, supermarkets, lorry drivers. But he has this belief that Brexit will be the end of the UK. It’s the capitalist world. It’s always going to right itself.

Batuhan and Ron

Sharing plate

Ron My dad sold his two cows in Jamaica to get here. A tenner each. He came first, my mum came after, then they had us here. They named us Ronald and Derek. Subconsciously they knew that if we had British names we’d be more likely to get on. I said to Batuhan: “I bet you’ve been discriminated against just because of your name. You’ve got to do twice as much, be twice as good.” He agreed with that. I think he was quite shy and I … well, not bullied him, I beat him over the head a few times.

Batuhan We agreed on that – we also agreed that, 100 years ago, 50 years ago, if a black man or an Asian person was walking down the street, he would have been verbally assaulted. Just because those behaviours no longer happen doesn’t mean racism is dead.

Batuhan and Ron

For afters

Ron There was an important crossover: he does neuroscience and I’ve worked in mental health – all our interests are from the neck upwards. I deliver exercise to people with brain injuries, for them to recover their coordination, learn to walk again. And he’d done work on brain injuries in neuroscience.

Batuhan Our jobs aren’t similar, but they do overlap; we’re both very interested in rehabilitation.

Batuhan and Ron


Ron It was a nice, pleasant afternoon. We got on well. You can differ, can’t you?

Batuhan Friendship doesn’t need you to agree on everything. You can still sit and talk like gentlemen, like civilised people. I really enjoyed talking with Ron. I’m going to see him in Salisbury.

Batuhan and Ron

Additional reporting: Naomi Larsson

• Batuhan and Ron ate at Goat and Tricycle in Bournemouth

Want to meet someone from across the divide? Click here to find out more

• This article was amended on 17 December to correct some personal information.


Zoe Williams

The GuardianTramp

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