So the UK voted to leave the EU. But why? Did 17 million people really believe that life would be better for them outside the political and economic institution that is the European Union, or did many well-publicised concerns (such as immigration) get conflated with this organisation? Or, more likely, was the result of this vote simply a massive ‘f***-off’ to the political establishment, which has often been accused of being out-of-touch and completely removed from the general public?
We all knew the result was going to be relatively close, and so it proved. And yet it is really hard to believe that 17 million people actively believe that the being part of the EU would be detrimental to the future of their livelihoods and their country. Yes, concerns about immigration and sovereignty may have been decisive factors for some of those who voted leave, but it is really the strong anti-establishment feeling that runs throughout the nation that really swung the vote towards the leave campaign, as shown below: traditional party lines were blown out of the window in this vote – many Labour heartlands in the North voted leave along with many Conservative safe seats.
The clear divide between London and the rest of the nation can be examined further and illustrates perfectly the disillusionment towards the political establishment by the nation. Whilst London, a cosmopolitan, globalised city which also happens to be at the heart of the British political establishment, clearly voted ‘remain’, places which are not, for the most part, voted ‘leave’. The correlation can’t be underestimated, and the old London-centric problem has once again reared its head. The failure of the establishment-aligned remain campaign to fully address this issue has resulted in the mess that we are in.
Whist many who voted leave do have other concerns, Billy Bragg summed up the referendum in a nutshell; yes, the leave campaign does have the support of the UKIP-sympathising, immigrant-bashing section of society, but, as usual, it was far more complicated that that:
— Billy Bragg (@billybragg) June 16, 2016
The reputation of the establishment in Westminster and Brussels was tested in this referendum, and the message from the majority is clear: they have no confidence in these institutions.
The referendum wasn’t totally a vote about the European Union. It was a referendum on the British people’s confidence, engagement and satisfaction with the political establishment, and the establishment was rejected.