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Brexit: Why did Britain vote to leave the EU?

  • Date

    Thu 4 May 17

Brexit Why did Britain vote to leave the European Union?

In the referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union the Remain campaign was only ever capable of securing a razor-thin victory and the probability of a vote for Brexit was always much higher.

This is one of the key findings of a new book co-authored by Professor Paul Whiteleyfrom our Department of Government which looks into the long term trends that fed into the result.

The team found the attitudes of UKIP members towards elites, economics and immigration are actually very similar to those of the electorate as a whole.

Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union, is being billed as the first comprehensive and objective study of the United Kingdom’s historic vote to leave the European Union and is to be published this week.

The book, also co-authored by Professor Harold D. Clarke from the University of Texas, Dallas, and Professor Matthew Goodwin from the University of Kent, provides unparalleled insight into the referendum vote. Their extensive analysis draws on more than 10 years’ worth of survey data, a pre-referendum and post-referendum panel survey and a unique survey of UKIP members.

It reveals how the historic vote marked the culmination of trends in domestic politics and in the UK’s relationship with the EU that had been building for many years.

It finds that there is still significant potential for populism in the UK and that Britain is not especially unusual by EU standards when it comes to attitudes towards immigration.

The book also highlights the Leave camp’s ‘dual campaign’ that included the official Vote Leave and the unofficial and more populist UKIP campaign. They point out this was an act of inadvertent campaign genius – enabling middle-class Eurosceptics to keep a perceived and so called ‘safe distance’ from the UKIP camp.

Professor Whiteley said, “We hope this book will greatly help readers to understand why Britain voted to leave the European Union and also clarify the consequences of this decision for the future.”

Peter Kellner, former BBC journalist, political commentator and former president of YouGov has praised the book, saying “DO NOT READ ‘BREXIT’ – unless you want truth rather than propaganda, objectivity rather than bias, and evidence rather than prejudice.

“Harold Clarke and his team of sleuths have written a book that will be standing when the post-truth claims of those on both sides of the referendum have rightly crumbled to dust.”

The book is published by Cambridge University Press and is officially launched on Thursday 4 May.