Brexit will hit Leave voters hardest, not ‘metropolitan elite’, new academic study finds

New research has found that regions of the UK that voted strongly for Leave are also those regions with the greatest levels of dependency on European Union markets for their local economic development [1]. The research shows the ‘unmistakable’ relationship between regions economically interdependent with EU markets and a high Leave vote. Conversely, those regions least dependent on EU markets displayed the strongest pro-Remain votes.

The study finds that the economy of the South West is particularly dependent on the EU, with Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and North Somerset considered the third most dependent area of the country. Devon, Dorset and Somerset are also in the top ten most dependent areas.

The findings ‘fly in the face’ of Leave campaigners who claimed the major beneficiaries of EU membership were ‘metropolitan elites’, says Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West:   

“The South West is one of the regions where a small majority voted to leave the EU but this research also finds it to be a region where economic activity is highly dependent on trade with the rest of Europe.

“This is the clearest evidence yet that those who are likely to suffer most from our decision to leave the EU will be those who voted for Brexit. The findings fly in the face of Leave campaign myth-making that claimed the major beneficiaries of EU membership were the ‘metropolitan elites’ of London. Nothing could be further from the truth: people voted for Brexit on a false prospectus.

“This report is a reality check. It shows unequivocally that our membership of the EU has actually benefitted the South West region, strengthening local economies and helping to rebalance our economy away from the South East.

“The consensus that Brexit was a vote by those left behind by globalisation is confirmed, but if the Prime Minister is really interested in helping such people she would be advised to ensure that we remain in the single market and maintain the closest possible links with our EU neighbours”.

The new findings follow a recent report which found Exeter, Bristol and Plymouth topped the list of cities exporting to the EU. This latest report also warns against optimistic speculation that new trade deals with other non-EU countries and a new ‘bespoke’ deal with the EU will foster growth in all UK regions. The report concludes that there is almost no evidence to support this argument and that the findings ‘appear to point in the opposite direction’.


[1] The mismatch between local voting and the local economic consequences of Brexit