MERSHAM, England – Since work began on a post-Brexit border checkpoint, villagers have complained of construction noise, damage to their homes and giant trucks blasting their horns at night.
But the real problem starts like clockwork each evening when hundreds of floodlights from the giant vehicle park illuminate the skyline.
Five years after Britons voted to leave the European Union, the aftershocks are still being registered. But few parts of the country have felt its impact more than this corner of England close to its Channel ports, where a majority voted for Brexit.
When Britain was in the EU, the trucks that flowed to and from France did so with few checks. But Brexit has brought a blizzard of red tape, requiring the government to build the 24-hour checkpoint.
“For people living nearby it’s an absolute catastrophe with the night sky completely lit up. Honestly, it’s like Heathrow Airport,” said Geoffrey Fletcher, chairman of the parish council at Mersham.
Yet, so polarized is the debate that Mr Fletcher thinks few minds have changed on Brexit. “I have not met anybody who has said they would vote differently,” said Mr Fletcher, a Brexit voter.
The Sevington Inland Border Facility is mainly used for Covid-19 testing of truck drivers headed to France, said Paul Bartlett, a Conservative Party representative on the Kent County Council. That should change in the fall, when Britain will start checking incoming goods including food and animal products.
Yet opposition to the border checkpoint has been muted because the land had been earmarked for development.
John Lang is one of the most directly affected, and while his physical view has changed dramatically, his political ones have not. Where once Mr Lang looked out at a barley field, he now faces the 27-hectare facility.
And while Mr Lang, the managing director of a building company, feels poorly treated by government officials, he has not wavered in his support for Brexit.
Liz Wright, a local Green Party councilor, decried the resultant pollution. “It is very sad when you think there were hedges, wildflowers, wildlife and trees,” she said.
However, Ms Wright voted for Brexit because she opposes the European Union’s farm policy and thought migration was forcing down wages.
Those who wanted to remain in the European Union, like Linda Arthur, a leader in a local group that wants some land dedicated to wildlife, can only shake their heads.
“It was a beautiful country village peaceful and quiet – until now,” she said.
But she accepts that the region can expect little sympathy in light of its vote to leave the EU and acknowledges that sentiment about Brexit has barely moved a notch.
“It hasn’t, I suppose it’s very interesting isn’t it?” she said, adding with a wry smile: “That’s all I can say as a non-Brexiteer.”
[This article originally appeared in The New York Times.]