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Government / Local politics

Brexit: What's the most pro-European city in Britain?

Last Thursday, Britain held a referendum, and – sit down, this may come as a shock – voted to leave the European Union. The result was close, but clear: 51.9 per cent voted leave, against 48.1 per cent for remain. (The turnout was 72.2 per cent.)

Individual areas though showed much more decisive results. Scotland and Northern Ireland went remain; England and Wales went leave. London, too, was much more enthusiastic for EU membership than either of the countries of which it’s meant to be capital.

So what of Britain’s other cities? What do they think of the whole thing? 

As ever, we need to define terms first. The figures in the chart below are based on local authority boundaries, which inevitably throws up oddities. It kind of makes sense for some of the smaller cities (Oxford City is as good a definition of Oxford as you’re likely to get). But it means that Manchester’s number doesn’t take into account the votes of people who live five minutes walk from the city centre in Salford, Birmingham’s include Longbridge but not Solihull, and so forth.

It also means it’s pretty difficult to come up with a fair comparison with London’s vote – the only “London” authority is conurbation-wide, and so includes the sort of places that don’t make the cut in most of the other major cities. There’s no right answer as to how to make the fairest comparison; so I’ve included stats for both Inner London, and Greater London, just to get a sense. 

Now that’s all out of the way, here’s a chart showing the percentage of voters opting for remain in 30 selected British cities.

Click to expand.

Major cities are generally more pro-European than the UK-wide average: of the 30 on this chart, only seven fall below the national average. (That doesn’t necessarily translate to “Remain” getting more than 50 per cent of the vote, however, and Leave won a majority in five more.)

Inner London is more EU-friendly than any British city except Edinburgh (another place heavily dependent on financial services), and Cambridge (university town, pretty international, and a place, one imagines, where the EU’s spending on science is at its most visible).

For once, the standard regional pattern that tends to pop up in these things is nowhere to be seen. Scottish cities are generally more pro-remain, but otherwise, the results are all over the map. If there is a trend, it’s that struggling post-industrial cities are generally more Eurosceptic than those with big cultural or service industries.

There are exceptions, though: Dundee is quite pro-European (the Scotland effect at work); Southend and Portsmouth aren’t. It was said before the vote that the biggest predictor of whether someone was voting Remain was whether they had a degree; that would seem to fit with these results.

The big question, though, is – what on earth is going on Birmingham that makes it so much less pro-European than every other of Britain’s major conurbations?

As we noted at the start, though, in the larger conurbations, these figures only represent the key local authority, rather than the larger city region. We’ll look at those another day.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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