Brexit and the Idea of European Disintegration

Britain has voted to leave the European Union (EU), or more accurately, England has voted to leave. The majority in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar voted to remain. The opinion polls, the bookies and the markets did not predict this outcome. The mood of the nation, it would seem, is becoming increasingly difficult to measure. Or is it?

There is a lot of data suggesting that ‘immigration’ was the dominant concern for those who voted to leave the EU. This should not be too surprising. In the latest Eurobarometer data, immigration was cited as the main concern of UK citizens, alongside Germany and Denmark.

According to YouGov data, which is more revealing, income was the best predictor as to whether someone intended to vote to leave or remain. Basically, the lower your income, the more inclined you were to vote leave. Some have referred to this category as ‘those with lower education’. But let’s be honest, it’s called social class.

Another predictor as to whether someone was more inclined to vote leave was age. Younger, more liberal voters, were much more supportive of remaining in the EU. The only problem with this category of voter, is that they failed to turn out en masse to vote at all. According to the data, electoral turnout among 18-25 year olds was pitiful. Older workers were much more inclined to vote.

The precise data on how particular communities and constituencies across England voted is perhaps most revealing. The poorest twenty districts in England overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU. Or to get at it another way, according to this report, those areas with the most stagnant wages are the same communities with the most anti-EU attitudes.

What can we infer from all of this? What should EU policymakers infer from all of this?

The core inference is that England is a deeply class divided society, and that the poorest in England are increasingly venting their anger at immigrants and the EU. Further, and what is not captured in the above data, is that right-wing political parties are now mobilising working class England.

Those same electoral constituencies most likely to vote leave, and with the most stagnant wages, are the same constituencies most likely to vote for the far-right populist UKIP party. In addition, they are the same people most likely to be discursively conscripted into the anti-immigrant lies of the red-top tabloid press.

Class politics in England increasingly overlaps with enthno-nationalism, whereby identity and immigration, rather than economic self-interest takes precedence in shaping electoral behaviour.

In political science, there is a large literature on economic voting. One of the core findings of this literature is that in times of crisis and economic austerity, voters punish incumbent governments. This is partially what happened in the UK. Disenfranchised working class voters punished the Tories, liberal elites, the EU and the city of London.

However, the economic voting literature, whilst useful in describing why voters punish government, tells us very little about who these voters turn to, when expressing their social grievances.

In theory, those voters most affected by austerity, unemployment, underemployment and precarious work, would turn to parties on the left and those parties committed to reducing economic inequality. Most research, particularly within Europe, however, suggests, working class voters are turning to the ethno-nationalist far-right.

To put it simply, those affected by austerity and right-wing economic policies don’t necessarily vote in their class interest, they increasingly vote in their ethno-nationalist interest. UKIP’s economic policies are aggressively libertarian, not social democratic.

Economic liberalisation, rising inequality, and the complete free movement of peoples has social and electoral consequences. Societies will react to this disruption in different ways. Nationalism provides a sense of meaning, community and belonging, to those most affected by liberalisation. Far-right parties, such as UKIP, know this.

This realisation, however, does not seem to have seeped through to policymakers in the EU or  Germany, who, despite a near complete destabilisation of the parliamentary party system in Southern, Eastern and Central Europe, remain committed to their failed neoliberal economic adjustment of austerity induced cost competitiveness.

Most political science research in the aftermath of the great recession increasingly suggests that not only are electorates losing trust in the EU, but that the support for national democracy, in general, is in decline. When the politicians change, and the policy remains the same, voters lose faith in the institutions of liberal democracy.

The question for national leaders in the European Council, and policymakers in the European Commission, is whether they need to wait for the election of Trump in the US, Le Penn in France, or the Five Star Movement in Italy, to realise that their economic policy response to the crisis has failed, and must fundamentally change?

Polities disintegrate when they begin to loose control of their external boundaries and their internal legitimacy. Or, as W.B Yeats poignantly wrote in 1919, “things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world“.  The UK and the EU are now faced with the potential for disorderly disintegration. Political scientists are accustomed to thinking that ‘more EU integration’ is inevitable. This is wrong.

Yeats wrote this after WW1, which coincided with the end of the first wave of free-market globalisation, when economic inequality peaked, much like today. In many ways Brexit can be interpreted as Europe’s Polanyi moment. It was a counter-reaction to a political economic system that is perceived to be designed in the interest of the comfortable elite.

It would be naive to assume that the popular reaction to rising inequality, precarious work, economic uncertainty, liberal elites and fear of immigration will lead to something politically progressive. The wave of anti-immigrant, nationalist sentiment, sweeping England, clearly shows that it won’t. France could be next. The EU should not wait to find out.

Comments

comments

Author: Aidan Regan

I'm an Assistant Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin (UCD), and Director of the Dublin European Research Institute (DEI). My research is primarily focused on comparative and international political economy.

27 thoughts on “Brexit and the Idea of European Disintegration”

  1. This is such an important area to analyse given the fallout.

    How much did the UK tabloid media influence anti EU sentiment? Over the last few days I’ve read through their websites and was surprised by their strong lines. Some of the anti EU articles would support the adage of never letting the truth get in the way of a good story.

    Is it possible to quantify the effect of years of anti European tabloids as opinion-formers to brexiteers ?

    Separately, I wonder if the First Past The Post system causes alienation of large swathes of the UK population. Although it’s more likely to produce majority governments, perhaps pr creates more inclusive governments ( via enabling smaller parties get represented and increase the likelihood of coalition government). You could also make a case that having a system that favours 2 parties, makes those parties more open to control by vested interests. For example Corbyn should have been in a party left of Labour and Murdoch should be supporting a party right of the Tories.

    1. FPTP disenfranchises large numbers of voters in times of chaos. UKIP got 3.9m votes and only 1 MP.

  2. Two links that might be of interest.

    http://blogs.ft.com/brusselsblog/2016/06/30/brexit-gift-to-hollande/

    http://www.alainjuppe2017.fr/discours-cinq-ans-pour-emploi

    “Economic liberalisation, rising inequality, and the complete free movement of peoples has social and electoral consequences. Societies will react to this disruption in different ways. Nationalism provides a sense of meaning, community and belonging, to those most affected by liberalisation. Far-right parties, such as UKIP, know this.

    “This realisation, however, does not seem to have seeped through to policymakers in the EU or Germany, who, despite a near complete destabilisation of the parliamentary party system in Southern, Eastern and Central Europe, remain committed to their failed neoliberal economic adjustment of austerity induced cost competitiveness.”

    The assumption that all the economies in Europe are somehow suffering equally from “failed neoliberal economic adjustment” is simply not in accordance with the observable facts, least of all in the case of Ireland.This is also not how the established political parties in France see the matter, post-Brexit, rather that the country needs to move towards the northern tier of successful European economies and away from the the less successful economies of the south. And, most of all, avoid outcomes such as those that have occurred in the UK, a message which they are certainly hoping will also register with their electorates with a view to outflanking extremes of the right and the left.

    Correcting the imbalance in economic performance of the two major economies of the Euro Area, France and Germany, lies at the core of the economic debate. It may not have been wise for them to attempt a common currency before this problem was resolved. But there is now no way back, even if Marine Le Pen thinks there is. Needless to say, completing the single market in all its aspects, as they see it, is a sine qua non.

    Brexit risks creating enormous problems for Ireland. It is doubtful if those holds true for any other countries of the EU, apart from the UK, of course.

    1. @DOCM,

      You make some good points, but I do have doubts about your comment..

      “is simply not in accordance with the observable facts, least of all in the case of Ireland.”

      Regardless of which Irish political party is voted into power, it is the officials in various departments who really run the country.

      These officials have got quiet a few things wrong in the past notably, Irish Water, Hague convention, and social housing, financial regulation etc. In fact in the 1950’s there was a suggestion that Ireland should think about rejoining the UK as so many Irish people had emigrated there. The economic policy was so wrong at the time.

      Officials also got wrong the “boundary commission of 1925”, and it is ironic but almost 100 years on we might be having a new boundary commission when Brexit Article 50 is submitted. Let’s hope London and Brussels do not insist on a 500 km concrete wall separating the six from the twenty six.

      My own impression is that post 2007/2008 financial crisis the Irish officials are anti home ownership. Native landlords are being driven out of the market in favour of larger foreign players like Kennedy Wilson, Canadian Ires REIT etc. Populist pogrom politics such as suggesting older retired couples be forcibly removed from larger homes, or landlords be jailed is worrisome.

      Irish history has numerous examples of failed official policy, but emigration was the safety valve, the people did not riot, they just shrugged their shoulders, packed their bag and took the boat to England.

      Except taking the boat to England may not be an option anymore.

      Then we might see the rioting commence in earnest!

      1. There is a confusion between what the EU is responsible for and what national governments are responsible for, especially as the latter are the executive (or not, as in the case of water charges) for EU legislation. Both through ignorance, and deliberate acts for political advantage, this confusion is increasing. In the case of the UK, it has become a pandemonium. On the points that you make, one can quote Article 4.2 of the Treaty on European Union.

        “The Union shall respect the equality of Member States before the Treaties as well as their national identities, inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional, inclusive of regional and local self-government. It shall respect their essential State functions, including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State, maintaining law and order and safeguarding national security. In particular, national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member State.”

        Another aspect is the sorry predictability of events e.g. the ill-judged comments emerging about the possibility of Ireland also departing the EU. Noel Whelan ended his piece in the IT this morning with the comment; “It may sound alarmist to some Europhiles but if Europe does not deal with the loss of Britain carefully and transparently it risks the loss of Ireland as well.” Unfortunately, he has the argument the wrong way around i.e. if Ireland does not deal with the loss of the UK carefully, the rest of the EU may not be unduly concerned about our departure. But Ireland cannot leave without also abandoning the euro. As the Greek experience has demonstrated, the vast majority of the electorate grasp the fact that it is not, as Farage described it, a “failing currency” but the world’s second reserve currency after the dollar and a solid bet. As is continued membership of the EU, warts and all. But, as I put it on another thread, the days of one hand out and the other giving it the two fingers are over.

        John Fingleton describes the country’s situation succinctly and accurately in this opinion piece.

        http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/john-fingleton-ireland-is-the-passenger-in-the-brexit-car-crash-1.2705745

        Luckily, the tussle between the Conservative drivers for the steering wheel has slowed the vehicle down but it has already caused possibly irreparable damage as it careers down the European and international road.

  3. “Economic liberalisation, rising inequality, and the complete free movement of peoples has social and electoral consequences.”

    It sure does and some very unwelcome economic ones as well. But the elites and policy makers know in their hearts that their policies and actions must be the correct ones. So, if they perceive problems they will most certainly attempt to displace the blame elsewhere (rather than on the policies or themselves), and ‘immigration’ is an appropriate, useful and handy externality to blame.

    In respect of the ‘free movement’ of peoples. Its monodirectional: toward the place where (it is hoped) a good living will be had. That’s a guarantee for trouble. But since that outcome is not a characteristic of the economic theory – it will not occur. You really do have to wonder at the gullability, arrogance and indifference of our best educated folk. Are they that stupid, that thick? It would appear so.

    European politics suffered a great shock and cartharis following the Great War. We, gratefully, have had no war. But we do have a Great Recession. Looks like history might be rhyming on us.

  4. There is a key variable missing from this analysis (and most of the others I’ve seen), which is race or minority religious identity. According to the Ashcroft exit poll, 73% of Black voters voted Remain, 67% of Asian, 67% of Mixed, 70% of Chinese; 70% of Muslim; 70% of Hindu. Anti-austerity campaigners who have welcomed the vote as a “working class revolt” seem completely oblivious to the possibility that the non-white working class has a very different view.

    1. I largely agree. But when you break it down further some non white groups (ie Sikhs) voted leave quite highly. And those figures from Ashcroft don’t account for class within racial groups, or even break it down further on ethnicity (even within whites)
      I could imagine a number of non whites favouring leave but being turned off by the racism of the campaign.
      I don’t think race has been missing from the analyses post vote, but what I worry more about is adopting the race rhetoric (which I’m not saying youre doing, just in general) of the US, which clarifies very little.

      1. Out of 20 Sikhs polled, 10 voted Leave and 10 voted Remain. Somehow this is represented in the Ashcroft table as 52%-48% in favour of Leave, I’m not exactly sure how that works, but in any case it certainly isn’t “quite highly” Leave. And what other non-white groups are you referring to?

        It is unfortunate that we don’t have cross-tabulations for class, race, and vote. But some of the areas with the highest Remain votes are ethnically diverse, economically deprived areas eg Hackney, Lambeth, Haringey. That also got lost in much of the post-referendum commentary about the elite cosmopolitan London bubble out of touch with ordinary people.

        As for your last sentence, what does that even mean?

        1. It means that in the US the left do this: take a group called “white” and ignore all differentiation within white( based on class, region, culture etc. ) Then take a group called non white (or poc) and generalise the inequalities and position of African Americans and native Americans (and to an extent “Latino”)to all non whites. From this they develop tenous enough ideas of privilege based on race. Then, when pushed on it ,(that there are huge differences, primarily due to selective migration, in the grouping “non white”) , they start categorizing in ways that suit their ideological preferences (ie pointing out Asian groups with low incomes, high mortality etc, and ignoring ethnic groups within white that show the same dysfunctions.)
          There’s a failure to take the values, beliefs, interests, politics etc of groups within the “non white” category seriously, but to use this demographic as the sounding board for leftist preferences(again, genuinely, I’m not saying this about you. But this is the general rhetorical position of the western left)

        2. “Somehow this is represented in the Ashcroft table as 52%-48% in favour of Leave, I’m not exactly sure how that works”

          What’s the breakdown within white for who voted leave and remain ? (Genuine question, I can’t find it at the minute)

          “And what other non-white groups are you referring to?”

          I’m not referring to any other, though I’d be sure there are some when the data is looked at more closely. But there are also obvious ethnic groups within white , northern irish Catholic, Scottish, who voted remain. I’d imagine this might be true of others , perhaps people from continental European ethnic groups.

          The larger point though is afaict this was explicitly sold, in the media, as an uprising of the northern English and Welsh *white* working class. So I think the racial characteristics have been made explicitly

  5. Immigration is not the issue. Turkey has 2.5 m refugees but still has coherent leadership and opposition. In the UK, education is highly correlated with youth. Brits older than 50 are less likely to have gone beyond secondary school.
    Trump famously declared that he loved uneducated people. They are easier to lie to.

    Deflation means that working class people don,t get pay rises.. Tacked onto neoliberalism it is politically toxic

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/01/15/40-years-of-economic-policy-in-one-chart/

    Markets assume trends can go on forever. This is stupid.

    Across the OECD political risk is rising. The Tory party is being ripped apart just as the Republican Party was.
    Fundamentally the interests of the working classes (growth and pay rises) and those of the elite (deflation, asset bubbles and wage supression) are no longer aligned. It is a zero sum game.,

    The endgame will be the collapse of neoliberalism.Ceteris is not paribus. Things fall apart

    Gilts are now negative yield. This is a stunna. Only the dollar left

  6. JK Galbraith has some fabulous quotes which are ultra germane to the circumstances

    “The enemy of the conventional wisdom is not ideas but the march of events”

    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/john_kenneth_galbraith_2.html

    The omniscient markets were exposed on Thursday. They priced sterling at 1.50 to the dollar . By Monday it was at 1.31

    “One of the greatest pieces of economic wisdom is to know what you do not know.”

    Just thinking about how nonsensical Basel 3 is with “risk free” now negative yield.

  7. Well argued, well supported, and quite depressing, particularly:

    “In theory, those voters most affected by austerity, unemployment, underemployment and precarious work, would turn to parties on the left and those parties committed to reducing economic inequality. Most research, particularly within Europe, however, suggests, working class voters are turning to the ethno-nationalist far-right.”

    The UK Brexit vote is certainly further compelling evidence of that statement.

    The hope, for some, that the Brexit vote may presage a move back to the left, looks a very forlorn hope at this point.

    The heretofore Labour voters, who voted for Brexit, are the people who have been ‘structurally-adjusted’ for years. Their reaction may not be understandable in economic terms, but lashing out at the nearest target, is a very primeval human instinct. Soldiers in battle kill civilians all the time, for no good reason, other than they are in the line of fire, or in the way. The marginalised of Europe, are also in battle, although the enemy is so adept at camouflage, that it can be hard to identify.

    John Harris, in the Guardian link provided above, gives a very good insight into the movement in the economic and social tectonic plates that are and will cause such angst in the UK and Europe.
    (from the article above: “Basically, the lower your income, the more inclined you were to vote leave. Some have referred to this category as ‘those with lower education’. But let’s be honest, it’s called social class.)

    The people who argue that all is well, or that all is well provided states keep taxes low and stop spending, are usually people with a considerable amount of skin in the game, and good access to media and power.
    [Murdoch manoeuvering to install the next ‘business-friendly’ UK prime minister is a case in point, but reality is being denied at every turn in order to shore up the failed consensus that the failed economic policies are working. They are not, but it requires honesty to admit it.].

    Meantime the first move in the UK is to throw billions, not towards places like Collyhurst, but to shore up the value of paper assets held by Kensington-type residents. QE, may have some advantages for the general economy, but its real support comes from the fact that it has very, very, large advantages for an already mega-wealthy elite.

    1. Murdoch reminds me of Sheldon Adelson who had 15 GOP presidential hopefuls come to his home for benediction. Trump beat every single one of them. He also reminds me of Voldemort.
      The disconnect between working class voters and neoliberals is only going to get wider.

  8. There are some good points in this analysis, but others not so good.

    The idea that the population of the U. Kingdom is suffering such economic distress that it turned in desperation to Brexit is a bit ludicrous. Currently the U. Kingdom’s unemployment rate is 5%, i.e. virtually full employment. Its recent growth rate has been one of the highest in Europe (although not as high as Ireland’s).

    The idea that voters saw Brexit as a means to greater equality in British society is also a bit daft. Generally, since Thatcher times the U. Kingdom has placed much less emphasis on economic equality than continental European countries. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. The same could be said of Ireland and indeed the other Anglosphere countries, all of which have higher levels of inequality than continental Europe. It may well be that slightly less emphasis on equality is one of the triggers for higher economic growth. I am saying that voting to leave the continental European sphere of influence and integrating more with the Anglosphere hardly indicates an obsession with equality. The idea that the U. Kingdom would have voted differently if only the European Union imposed high taxes across the continent and redistributed them to the continent’s poorest has no credibility whatever.

    Regarding immigration, most people feel little threat from immigration from eastern Europe. Poles, Latvians, Hungarians have no trouble integrating in western Europe. Net immigration from eastern Europe to the U. Kingdom in recent years has been much less than net immigration to Ireland between 2000 and 2009. But, its caused barely a ripple in Ireland. What has alarmed people is large-scale immigration from the Middle-East, North Africa and Pakistan/Afghanistan. This is for obvious reasons (Paris, Brussels airport, Istanbul airport) that need not be gone into here. Merkel’s decision to bring in 1 million immigrants from the Middle-East, with the prospect of this being repeated every year, was probably the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ as far as significant sections of the U. Kingdom electorate were concerned. One of the worst decisions ever.

    Since the analysis is clearly written from a left-wing perspective, it underestimates the effect of British nationalism on the vote. This is not primarily economics-driven, any more than Irish or Scottish nationalism is primarily economics-driven. Irish and Scottish nationalists would want independence from the U. Kingdom even if the U. Kingdom was heaven on earth. Likewise, British nationalists would want independence from the European Union even if the European Union was heaven on earth. The difference is that Irish and Scottish nationalisms feel compatible with the idea of the European Union (mainly because it enables them to escape domination by England), while British nationalism is innately hostile to the idea of the European Union. If economic conditions were behind the vote, why did Scotland vote differently from England? If economic deprivation was behind the vote, why did nationalist areas in N. Ireland (the most deprived in the U. Kingdom) vote overwhelmingly to remain? Why did Derry and Glasgow vote overwhelmingly to remain and Bournemouth vote overwhelmingly to leave? Is it because there is more economic deprivation in Bournemouth than in Derry or Glasgow? Or is it because they embrace different nationalisms? I should add that I have no objection to England voting how it did? It was perfectly entitled to and, if the English thought it was in their national interest to do so, I fully respect that. My objection is to England making a decision for itself which is then forced on N. Ireland and Scotland.

    The analysis is correct in highlighting the massive disconnect that now exists between the elites and large sections of the population. This is true for most countries, including Ireland. But, it isn’t all economic. Historically, most western countries have developed a two-party system, with one of the parties being a ‘conservative’ party that in economic terms gave priority to growth and in social terms actually did ‘conserve’, and the other party being a ‘labour’ party that gave priority to ensuring that the benefits of the growth were more widely spread. This system worked well with rotation of power between these two types of parties bringing western countries to unprecedented levels of economic and social development. In the last couple of decades, however, its all been abandoned. Extreme social liberalism has taken control of both sides of the traditional right/left divide, which are now largely indistinguishable. Society is being re-engineered in ways that would have been considered ludicrous throughout human history. No opposition to the new consensus is tolerated. We see this in Ireland. The Labour Party has totally abandoned any pretence of redistributing the fruits of Ireland’s economic growth and replaced it with an obsession to overturn all traditional values and replace them with whatever daft idea the Dublin 4 media luvvie set come up with. The same is true in the U. Kingdom. David Cameron antagonised large swathes of traditional conservatives by his espousal of extreme social liberalism. And what possessed the ‘Remain’ campaign to think that sending Eddie Izzard in a skirt to towns like Burnley and Huddersfeld would sway voters?

  9. I’ve been pointing this out since 2008. The worst consequences of the financial crash were always going to be the rise of the far-right forces of xenophobia and nationalism.

    An earlier poster says unemployment in the UK is 5% so they should be grand. But that metric misses the bigger picture. How well do those jobs pay? How much disposable income do people have? How happy are they with their jobs? How far did they have to move to get them? How confident are people that they can get another job if they lose this one?

    95% of people who can work having a job sounds great, but you shouldn’t stop asking questions there.

    The larger issue is income distribution. Because having wealth concentrated in a few means that the opportunities for economic advancement for people are limited. Their chances of building a life with some economic security are limited.

    And without state intervention Zipf’s Law will rule and wealth will only slide upwards. Neoliberalism seems intent on ignoring this basic observed fact, and the politicians and policy wonks who peddle neoliberal policies are harming the European project. A project that has brought a measure of peace and stability that hasn’t existed in Europe for, well, pretty much ever.

    We should do more to change their minds.

    1. Bonds are the vector of elite asset accumulation. USD 11.7tn now negative yield. The lower yields go the higher the wealth.
      But bonds will end up with 1950s treatment. Serious Financial repression.

      Set this baby to max and check out 1950 to 1965

      http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/government-debt-to-gdp

      “”They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    2. The solution you suggest is currently being tried in France cf. Alain Juppé’s campaign start speech.

      “Or, toute la fiscalité fonctionne comme un piège contre l’investissement, alors que l’investissement c’est l’emploi.

      La preuve, c’est que quand réalise 100 € de résultat avant impôts, il reste à l’actionnaire, après paiement de tous les impôts 51 € en Allemagne, 49 € en Grande-Bretagne et seulement 36 € en France avant ISF. Après ISF au taux de 1%, ce ne sont plus 36 € mais 3€ qui restent à l’actionnaire pour 100 € de résultat.”

      The ISF (“impot de solidarité sur les fortunes”; the left has a way with words!) was first introduced by Mitterand and has see-sawed with the changes of government since. The President attempting this approach has an approval rating well below 20% which would suggest that the French electorate does not think it is working either. In fact, he is trying to go in two opposing directions by introducing some – watered down – reform of French labour laws which result in the highest cost for employers in Europe and exclude many permanently from the national workforce. The methods adopted, by the CGT trade union in particular, to combat any changes have drawn widespread condemnation. France’s problems are largely of its own making.

      If excessively detailed regulation of economies made them rich, France would have no problems. The same holds true of blanket economic formulas applied to widely-differing economies and societies.

    3. I think Syria and it’s repercussions (refugees, increase in large scale terror attacks etc) explains More than the 2008 crash. I should note I’m pro immigration, including relocating all Syrian refugees thats feasible without hollowing out Syria in the l/t, but the Syrian war explains a lot of of current situation.

  10. On this:

    “In political science, there is a large literature on economic voting. One of the core findings of this literature is that in times of crisis and economic austerity, voters punish incumbent governments. This is partially what happened in the UK. Disenfranchised working class voters punished the Tories, liberal elites, the EU and the city of London.”

    You should note that the UK electorate including lower “social class” groups voted with enthusiasm for austerity at the last general election. They did not punish the incumbent government.

    That is not surprising when the opposition were so utterly useless as to fail to make any real attempt to understand the implications of the lowest gilt yields in history, the fact of money printing on an enormous scale by the BOE, and the mediating role of the exchange rate. Some of (very few ) of them understood this a little, but with little confidence, but almost all joined in the tactical choice that painting debt as bad would make them look electable.

    In other words, the centre-left went missing, leaving the Labour Party a choice between Tory-lite or going full-Corbyn.

    The role of shoddiness, ineffectuality, stupidity and tactical obsession among politicians; the intellectual laziness and manipulative tendencies of the mainstream press; and the fact that ordinary electors haven’t got the spare capacity to form their own well researched views without relying on politicians and press, are imho underrepresented in the analysis.

    1. Gilt yields are even lower now. Even the Irish 10 year is below 60bps. Osborne has given upon the deficit.
      .
      Markets have given up on pricing. The debt unwind is going to be brutal.

      I think the chalice of the last UK election was poisoned. The Tories have no answers to economic chaos

  11. “According to YouGov data, which is more revealing, income was the best predictor as to whether someone intended to vote to leave or remain”

    Though “Values” were a better indicator than income.

    “To put it simply, those affected by austerity and right-wing economic policies don’t necessarily vote in their class interest, they increasingly vote in their ethno-nationalist interest”

    A better indicator than recent “austerity” was areas with long term decline, so the destruction of old communities, cultures and value systems. This would imply these demographics would not vote their class interests unless the non economic values of their allies matched their own. Which isn’t going to happen

    1. From the OP – “Younger, more liberal voters, were much more supportive of remaining in the EU. The only problem with this category of voter, is that they failed to turn out en masse to vote at all. According to the data, electoral turnout among 18-25 year olds was pitiful.”

      Do we know a higher turnout among the young would have been significantly better for remain? That’s a non rhetorical question.
      Since the youth turn out was heavily skewed toward the educated and wealthier, I’d imagine it’s at least plausible that higher turnout among less educated and poorer would have skewed leave, as with the general population.

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