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Local Communities in Britain after Brexit

What do ‘Comfortable Leavers’ want from Brexit?

Wigan High Street
Published: April 2021

Findings from a study designed to explore what matters to ‘Comfortable Leavers’ about the UK leaving the EU, as well as their priorities for their communities, and the UK more widely.

The vote in favour of leaving the EU has been widely interpreted as a protest vote by those who are said to be ‘left behind’. Less attention has been paid to more affluent Leave voters living in areas with relatively high levels of wealth.  This report shares the findings from a study designed to explore what matters to these ‘Comfortable Leavers’ about the UK leaving the EU, as well as their priorities for their communities, and the UK more widely.

Findings

  • The findings clearly demonstrate that for these Leave voters issues of governance and immigration were of greatest significance in their decision to leave the EU.  There was a sense that EU membership had constrained independent decision making for the UK and risked muddying a clear sense of British identity
  • When discussing priorities for the UK after Brexit, Leave voters clearly signalled a desire to rebuild Britain based on a clear sense of identity and investment in certain types of industry. They were hoping for a clearer sense of national identity as the UK left the EU, based on a more nostalgic vision of British values and priorities.
  • However, the changes Leave voters actually expected to see were more tempered. This was in part because negotiations had not yet concluded at the of fieldwork but also due to the fact that Covid-19 had created additional uncertainty.
  • Leavers and Remainers both identified the likelihood that there would be short-term negative economic consequences to Brexit, but Leavers were much more confident that this would quickly improve and the impact (on them at least) would not be too great. On both sides of the vote, participants generally felt that a close, mutually beneficial agreement on exiting the EU would be preferable.
  • Leavers and Remainers both saw the EU referendum as having heightened Britain’s social divides and felt it important that the country has a clear sense of identity to unite itself over post-Brexit. However, there were clear differences in what Leavers and Remainers wanted Britain to take pride in.

Methods

The findings were generated from eight online deliberative workshops involving 130 people who voted both Leave and Remain. This deliberative approach allowed us to build a rounded and in-depth understanding of the views of these voters, allowing us to draw out the similarities and differences between different groups.