IZA DP No. 13579: Regional Variations in the Brexit Vote: Causes and Potential Consequences
There were large regional differentials in the Brexit vote. Most notably, the percentage voting to leave the EU ranged from 38% in Scotland and 40% in London to 59% in the East and West Midlands. Turnout also varied across Britain, from a low of 67% in Scotland to 77% in the South East and South West. Existing empirical studies have tended to focus on the demographic composition of geographical areas to identify the key socio-economic characteristics in explaining spatial and other variations in the leave vote - with age and education found to be important drivers. We use the British Social Attitudes Survey to provide a more nuanced picture of regional differences in the Brexit vote by examining in particular the role that national identity and attitudes towards immigration played. In addition to education, we find that national identity exerted a strong influence on the probability voting leave in several English regions, including the East, North East, London and South East. Whereas, over and above this, concerns about immigration had a quantitatively large and highly significant impact in all regions bar London, and the East to a lesser extent. Differences by country of birth are also explored, with national identity and concerns about immigration having a larger impact for the English-born. Our findings are then discussed in the light of changes that have affected regional economies during the process of increased globalisation, austerity, the current Covid-19 crisis and recent UK government announcements to rebalance the economy.