4 Observations from the EU referendum results

I spent a sleep-deprived Friday analysing the EU referendum results. Here are a few observations I made.

1. Remain areas tended to be better off and more qualified

The parts of Britain that voted Remain tended to be better paid and more qualified than areas that voted Leave. Almost all of the areas with the lowest weekly wages in Britain all voted to quit the European Union.

Voters in Remain areas also tended to be much more likely to have degree-level qualifications or above than Leave areas.

2. Remain failed to convince the Leave areas of the economic arguments

The economic arguments for staying in the EU clearly failed to persuade people who voted Leave.

And if you think about it, why would these arguments work? Threatening the collapse of the UK economy means little to people who are already losing out due to globalisation.

Or perhaps the whole economic argument was the wrong thing for Remain to focus on. Lord Ashcroft’s polls found that Leavers felt other concerns such as sovereignty and immigration were more important.

lordashcroftEU2
From Lord Ashcroft’s polls

3. Big cities voting for Brexit

As the results came in on the night, big cities announced their voters had opted for Leave.

Among them were Coventry, Nottingham, Sheffield and, about 4:30am, Birmingham.

Leeds and Newcastle, cities that should have been Remain heartlands, only just voted for Remain (50.3 per cent in Leeds; 50.7 per cent in Newcastle). Both these Northern cities have high proportions of young, educated Remain-minded voters.

With 20:20 hindsight, if the Remain camp could barely convince these kinds of places that we were better off in the EU, they didn’t have a prayer.

4. Brexit could lead to the break-up of the UK

We haven’t actually triggered Article 50, which would initiate the Leave process, yet. Nicola Sturgeon is already talking about holding another Scottish independence referendum.

I think she’s well within her rights to ask for one if we really do end up leaving. Scotland overwhelmingly backed Remain, 62 per cent to 38 per cent. Scotland came out the most pro-EU part of the UK, even more so than London. In my opinion leaving the EU is a big enough constitutional change to justify holding another Scottish independence referendum, not even two years after the last one.

The only other region or country in the UK to vote Remain was Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein have already called for a poll on whether to unite the North with the Republic.

Concluding thoughts

The referendum exposed the gap between people who think globalisation is a good thing and those who can’t stand it.

It also exposed how little attention many people pay to politicians, bankers and ‘experts’ as Michael Gove put it.

Consider this non-exhaustive list of the Remain camp:

  • David Cameron
  • George Osborne
  • Tony Blair
  • John Major
  • Gordon Brown
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • Angela Merkel
  • Barack Obama
  • Trade unions
  • The Confederation of British Industry (CBI)

And on the Leave side:

  • Boris Johnson
  • Michael Gove
  • Nigel Farage
  • Donald Trump

If the British people had actually listened to these prime ministers, presidents, politicians, bankers and business leaders, then Remain would have won a landslide. But on the whole, we didn’t. So we have Brexit on the cards.

 

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