The cosmopolitan-communitarian divide explains UK’s EU split.

The cosmopolitan-communitarian divide explains UK's EU split.

Understanding the Brexit Vote: Exploring the Driving Factors Behind Euroscepticism

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YouGov, a renowned polling organization, recently released an intriguing map that provides valuable insights into the voting patterns of the Brexit referendum. This map, based on data from an 80,000-strong panel of voters, ranks 188 of the 206 local authority areas in England, Scotland, and Wales according to their propensity to vote for Brexit on June 23rd. Let’s dive into the map’s fascinating findings and examine the underlying factors that drove the Brexit vote.

One of the first notable observations from the YouGov map is the strong pro-European leaning of Scotland and Wales. These regions, shaped by left-leaning political traditions and distinct national self-images, demonstrate a clear preference for remaining in the EU. In contrast, England displays a more varied picture, largely driven by an intriguing class-educational divide.

The map clearly highlights the concentration of Europhiles in prosperous cities and university towns such as Bristol, Manchester, London, and Oxford. These areas are dominated by highly educated professionals who tend to favor EU membership. On the other hand, the most Eurosceptic areas are often described as “left behind” locations, including the Thames Estuary, declining coal mining areas, and seaside towns. These regions tend to have lower educational qualifications and less skilled labor.

An interesting facet arises when addressing the argument that Euroscepticism primarily stems from concerns about immigration. The YouGov map challenges this notion, as both the most Europhile and Eurosceptic areas exhibit varying levels of experience with immigration. There are pro-European areas with significant exposure to immigration, such as Lambeth and Southampton, as well as areas with relatively low immigration rates, like the Scottish Highlands and the Wirral. Similarly, the most Eurosceptic regions range from relatively monocultural areas like Cumbria and Somerset to diverse locales such as Lincolnshire and Peterborough, which have experienced an influx of Eastern European immigrants.

These contrasting examples suggest that Euroscepticism is not solely driven by immigration-related factors, such as perceived burdens on public services and labor markets. The cultural and economic environment of an area plays a significant role in shaping attitudes towards the EU and immigration. Regions accustomed to a heterogeneous population, inhabited by liberal-minded university graduates, or economically prosperous enough to not feel threatened by relatively unskilled newcomers tend to exhibit lower levels of Euroscepticism. A notable example of these conditions aligning is London, which has become the capital of British Europhilia.

Understanding the factors contributing to Eurosceptic sentiments is not only important for the ongoing debate on Europe but also for future implications. If Britain were to vote for Brexit or even stay with a narrow margin, critics would likely blame governments for allegedly allowing more immigrants than the country can successfully absorb. However, this line of argument fails to capture the full complexity of the issue. Concerns about strained services and undermined wages reflect not only economic anxieties but also the growing cultural and perceptual divide between different parts of the country.

This divide presents a wider challenge that requires a nuanced and comprehensive approach. Rather than resorting to a simplistic remedy of severing ties with Europe and its citizens, a more effective solution would involve nurturing the generational shift towards liberal attitudes, improving adult education and retraining programs, and fostering stronger connections between marginalized regions and thriving urban areas. Addressing this multifaceted issue requires substantial effort and a commitment to bridging the gap between cosmopolitan and communitarian perspectives.

To explore the interactive version of the map and further engage with the data, visit YouGov’s website.