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Brexit vote ‘fuelled by immigration and economic decline in local areas’

The finding appears to confirm the belief Brexit exposed a divide between cosmopolitan voters and people rooted in local communities.

The vote for Brexit was fuelled by a “backlash” from people with strong local roots unhappy about immigration and economic decline in the areas where they live, according to a new study.

The London School of Economics research found that those living in the county of their birth at the time of the 2016 referendum were 7% more likely to back Leave than people who had moved away from their home area.

The finding appears to confirm the widespread belief that Brexit exposed a divide between cosmopolitan voters – including those characterised by Theresa May as “citizens of nowhere” – and people rooted in local communities.

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(PA Graphics)

But researchers found the “immobility effect” was not universal, resulting in increased support for Brexit only in areas which had experienced stagnating wages or a growth in their non-white British population in recent years.

Long-standing residents of counties which had performed well economically did not display the same tendency to prefer Brexit found among their stay-at-home counterparts in poorer areas.

“Someone born and living in somewhere like Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorgan, which has experienced weak wage growth since the recession, was more likely to support Brexit than someone born and still living in Oxfordshire, where the economy has performed better,” explained the report’s co-author Katy Morris.

“Our results show the need to spread opportunity more widely across the country.”

LSE associate professor in economic geography Neil Lee said: “A common argument about Brexit is that it pitted geographically-mobile Remain supporters against locally-rooted individuals who supported Brexit.

“Our results suggest this is only partially true, and that the Brexit vote was a response by those who have not moved to changes in their local area.”

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