In our 2015 end-of-year review, John Van Reenen predicted that Britain was heading towards Brexit. The causes of the vote, the failures of the polls, and the “Brexit-Trump syndrome” were the topics of some of our most popular articles of 2016.
John Van Reenen was disappointed but not surprised by the UK’s vote to Leave the EU. Whilst his own research predicts serious economic and political damage in the case of Brexit, he thought a Leave vote was a real possibility ever since David Cameron committed to a vote in 2013. In his last post as Director of LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance, he gives his verdict on the campaigns, the media, politicians, and being a derided expert.
As the final votes are counted, pundits and pollsters sit stunned as Donald J. Trump gets set to enter the White House. For anyone in Britain, there is a sharp tang of déjà vu in the air: this feels like the morning after the Brexit vote all over again. Eric Kaufmann explains that, as with Brexit, there’s little evidence that the vote had much to do with personal economic circumstances.
The story of the referendum is usually told through geography: areas that had been left behind by globalisation voted to Leave. But this tells us only so much, writes Eric Kaufmann. Knowing where Leave voters live does not, in itself, explain why individuals chose to vote a certain way. Here, he demonstrates the importance of invisible differences between groups, and argues that it was primarily values that motivated voters, not economic inequality.
Lowering immigration was the key motivation behind the Brexit vote, and how to achieve it dominates the current political debate. Drawing on new data, Eric Kaufmann analyses the propsects of support for a hard and a soft Brexit, based on how much Britons would be willing to pay to reduce the number of Europeans entering the UK.
By analysing 121 opinion polls, Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin, and Paul Whiteley outline what happened with the EU referendum survey results. They explain why internet surveys performed substantially better than telephone ones – contrary to the post-2015 General Election ‘wisdom’ that telephone surveys should be preferred. Underlying trends showed that once methodological artefacts are controlled, Leave was almost certainly ahead of Remain over the entire last month of the campaign – and possibly throughout 2016.
For decades, investment has been falling, living standards have declined, and inequality has risen. What the Brexit and Trump campaigns shared was that they exploited the resulting disaffection by blaming those problems on external forces, including globalisation. Yet these problems were not the inevitable results of globalisation, but of domestic policy choices, influenced by flawed economic theories. Michael Jacobs and Mariana Mazzucato explain why and how we need to rethink contemporary capitalism.
Claims about Britain’s past are made regularly in the referedum debate. But claims about Britain’s historical place in the world – courageously standing alone, being outnumbered and outgunned but in the end outperforming everyone – are not based on fact, writes Mike Finn. These myths could nonetheless have very real consequences: this is the self-image that the Brexit campaign portray and which many think they will revive by voting to Leave.
Xenophobia, austerity, and dissatisfaction with politics may have contributed to the Brexit vote. But James Dennison and Noah Carl write that, although a number of concerns may have tipped the balance, Brexit was ultimately decided by more than recent events. Here, they demonstrate how the UK has been the least well-integrated EU member state, and so the closer the EU was moving toward political union, the more likely Brexit was becoming.
At a recent LSE talk, Danny Dorling argued that we should stay in the European Union. Here, he unpicks the absurdity of some of the arguments against our EU membership. Those for Brexit are not only likely to come from areas with few immigrants, but they want highly-skilled lowly-paid young Europeans out of the country, all while British expat pensioners rely on someone else’s health system. And who are the decision-makers to be? Those who got to vote in the 1975 referendum will get a second vote in this one – but 16 and 17 year-olds, who will have to build an entire life on the consequences, will not.
The referendum vote for Brexit was clear: the electorate was 46,501,241 people; 17,410,742 of those voted Leave; and 16,141,241 voted Remain. The public actually did not, does not, and will not want a Brexit in the foreseeable future. Adrian Low makes this argument by analysing the post-referendum polls and demographic trends.