'Operation Croissant': French love seeks to keep UK in EU

A pro-remain campaigner from "Operation Croissant" hands out a postcard written by Parisians urging people in the UK to vote to remain in the EU, to a commuter at Kings Cross Station in London on June 22.
PHOTO: AFP

London - Volunteers from Paris travelled to London Wednesday (June 22) to hand out love letters from France aiming to persuade Britons to stay in the EU on the eve of a knife-edge referendum.

Standing outside one of London's busiest commuter rail stations, around 15 volunteers from "Operation Croissant" handed out postcards with handwritten messages from French nationals.

"Because what would you do without French kiss?" read one.

Organisers had hoped to distribute freshly-baked croissants with the roughly 500 postcards sending greetings from the city of love ahead of Thursday's European Union membership vote.

But their plans were scuppered by British police, who cited laws banning campaigners from providing food to voters in the run-up to an election because it could corrupt the result.

Organiser Rosa Rankin-Gee said they wanted to make a gesture which contrasted with the often bad-tempered main debate, in which Prime Minister David Cameron is leading the push to stay in.

"We're all aware of how vitriolic the campaign has been and we wanted to do something happy, to make people smile," said the 29-year-old, who lives between Paris and Britain.

On the postcards, people write about "their love for our eccentricity or our music" or about their families' Anglo-French connections, she said.

Wearing "Operation Croissant" T-shirts, volunteers handed out the messages in the morning rush hour outside King's Cross station.

Some walked on without taking the postcards while others were intrigued by the interest that their French neighbours were taking in the vote.

Kathryn Sygrove, 50, received a postcard which read: "Please don't leave us alone with the Eurovision Song Contest." "I've already made my mind up," she said. "I'm on the side of the croissant." Amy Ferguson, 33, who actually works for a company making croissants, said she too had already decided to vote in, but added: "I think it's nice that they have sent us this. I'm touched." After a long and often bitter campaign, opinion polls indicate that the race is extremely close.

The "Remain" camp is currently on 51 percent and "Leave" is on 49 percent, according to a poll of polls by the What UK Thinks project which excludes undecided voters.

Rankin-Gee said the fresh croissants which volunteers had brought with them on the Eurostar train from Paris would now be given to a homeless shelter, with no political message attached.

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