“The grass is greener on the other side”: The relationship between the Brexit referendum results and spatial inequalities at the local level

Diana Gutierrez Posada, Maria Plotnikova, Fernando Rubiera Morollon

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Abstract

Despite seven decades of development of the European Union project, on 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom, Europe and the rest of the world were surprised when the Leave campaign won the Brexit referendum, offering an extraordinary case study for researchers. We spatially disaggregate the vote share data, which allows us to explore where anti-European sentiment took root in the UK and why. In this paper, a spatial dependence model is applied to clarify and quantify the relevance of the different dimensions—demographic, cultural/educational and economic—that play a role in explaining the rise of support for the Leave campaign. The analysis is conducted at the local level, using local authorities (LAs) as the spatial unit of analysis due to the combination of official datasets with newly generated data in the context of an EU H2020 project. A new indicator capturing the affluence of each local area relative to its close neighbours is proposed and included in the model. In general, we observe that most of the main conclusions obtained by large regions or at the national level also hold at the local scale. However, it is particularly interesting that inequalities by LAs are clearly significant, indicating a marked influence on voters' decisions that have thus far been unaccounted for. This result provides further support for the existence of, to use Andrés Rodriguez-Pose's terminology, an even more intense “revenge of the places that do not matter” at the local scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1481-1500
Number of pages20
JournalPapers in Regional Science
Volume100
Issue number6
Early online date05 Oct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Brexit referendum
  • geography of discontent and Euroscepticism
  • spatial inequalities

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