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From France with love: UK police halt anti-Brexit ‘Operation Croissant’

Leon Neal, AFP | "Operation Croissant" campaigners hand out postcards written by Parisians urging people to vote to remain in the EU in London on June 22

British police swooped in to stop a French activist group that wanted to hand out hundreds of freshly baked croissants to London commuters in an act of European friendship ahead of Britain's vote on whether to remain in the EU.

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Police intervened on the eve of Wednesday's caper, telling volunteers from the French capital it would be illegal to offer food in the run-up to an election because it could corrupt the result.

Britain's Electoral Commission said that the efforts of the group, #operationcroissant, violate guidelines banning the use of food to influence votes.

The group of about 15 volunteers had brought hundreds of croissants to London on the Eurostar train from Paris, said organiser Rosa Rankin-Gee. The 600 croissants from Paris were donated to homeless shelters.

Rankin-Gee, a writer based in Paris, says #operationcroissant was an effort to do something "stripped of the angry, politicised and divisive campaigning".

She says they "are happy to fall on our baguettes and stick to the right side of British law".

Commuters at London's King's Cross and St. Pancras stations were instead given postcards from Parisians asking them to stay. Deprived of their pastries, the activists handed out love letters -- postcards with often handwritten messages they had collected from French nationals pleading with their cross-Channel friends to stay in the EU.

"Because what would you do without (the) French kiss?" read one of the cards, offered to passers-by in the morning rush hour outside the busy King's Cross railway station in central London.

Some people walked on without taking the postcards but others were intrigued by the interest their French neighbours have taken in the referendum.

‘I’m touched’

Kathryn Sygrove, 50, received a postcard that 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 by coincidence 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."

Rankin-Gee said the pro-EU volunteers wanted to make a gesture that contrasted with the often bad-tempered main debate, in which Prime Minister David Cameron is leading the push to remain.

"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 campaigner, 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.

After a long and often bitter campaign, opinion polls indicate the race is close.

The "Remain" camp is 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.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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