After the vote to leave: how devolution could make Britain’s cities players on the global stage

Publication date:
Andrew Carter, Chief Executive, Centre for Cities

Urban Britain today is divided, with its political divides mapping onto its economic ones. On no issue is this divide so pronounced as on the country’s European Union membership. The vote to leave the EU is often characterised as a protest by people in “left-behind” places, where voters felt ignored by national politicians (Rodriguez-Pose, 2018). Increasing economic divides – for example in relation to wages, welfare spend per capita and employment rates – at least partially explain the recent political divides that have opened up across the country. Mansfield, a small city in the east Midlands where resident wages in 2017 were 19% below the national average, saw a 70% vote to leave – the highest share of any UK city. At the other end of the spectrum, Reading, a larger city in England’s south-east – where resident wages in 2017 were 18% above the national average and welfare payments in 2016/17 were £1,100 lower per person than in Mansfield – voted to remain (Centre for Cities, 2018).