Why did people vote Leave? Because they want to Leave

Tom Bailey

Topics Politics UK

A new study by the Fabian Society, a British political think-tank, claims to have discovered why so many Brits voted to leave the European Union (besides just wanting to leave the European Union). It says ‘regions and nations [within the UK] which have been “winners” when it comes to public spending were also the most pro-Remain’. In other words, unfair allocation of public spending across the UK is the problem here, driving a culture of disaffection and therefore support for Brexit.

While noting that correlation is not the same as causation, the study says ‘we can speculate that many years of “unreasonably” low expenditure might help to explain why communities and regions came to be and to feel left behind and under pressure’. Apparently, this feeling of being left behind meant many regions outside of the relatively well-off south-east voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. The study argues for a fairer distribution of fiscal resources across Britain.

While the report might have some valid points to make about the distribution of fiscal spending, the way it talks about Brexit is revealing. It says: ‘The evidence from the Brexit vote suggests that the price of our failure to allocate resources fairly may be high.’ That is, the Brexit vote was something that should not have happened. Yet, due to ‘our failure to allocate resources fairly’, it did happen. Brexit is seen, not as something people actively wanted and therefore voted for, but as a kind of terrible accident, a mistake that has befallen Britain.

That the Fabian Society should view the Brexit vote in this way is perhaps not surprising. This is a think-tank that broadly shares the political values of the EU, and is staffed by the sort of people who cherish their identities as ‘European citizens’. Yet the Fabian approach to Brexit – how could this have happened? — does underline the chasm that now exists between the political set and the electorate.

The Fabian Society isn’t the only offender here. The Electoral Reform Society recently published its own bewildered-by-Brexit study, titled Doing Referendums Differently after the EU Vote. The ERS says: ‘Referendums are in vogue – so let’s get them right.’ The implication is that the EU referendum somehow went ‘wrong’ – meaning the Remain side, the supposedly good side, lost.

The assumption behind these reports and much of the media’s anti-Brexit coverage is that no one could have rationally concluded that Britain should leave the EU. No, they must really have been concerned about something else, or were thinking in the ‘wrong’ way. The Fabian Society talks about ‘political disaffection’ and its ‘amenability to Brexit’. It cannot handle the fact, or even accept the fact, that people were dissatisfied with the EU and the status quo, and therefore opted to overturn it.

The referendum outcome is talked about as if it were an accident; as if a building collapsed or a train derailed and now self-appointed experts must investigate, sifting through the rubble to determine what went wrong. Brexit was no accident. It was purposeful, and considered. Citizens were asked a simple question: Remain or Leave? And the largest number of voters for anything in British history said loudly and clearly: ‘Leave.’

Tom Bailey is a writer based in London.

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Topics Politics UK


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