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Expert comment: Brexit and marginal Leave voters

As MPs are set to vote on the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement, Dr Thiemo Fetzer from the Department of Economics considers whether the marginal voters who supported Leave due to austerity measures still feel that Brexit is an answer to their problems.

Dr Thiemo Fetzer said: “Austerity, and specifically, the recalibration of the UK's governments spending priorities away from the young and the working age population was a political choice. While welfare spending declined in real terms by 15% per capita, tax cuts were extended, personal allowances were increased and tax brackets moved - each of these reforms were costly but had they not been done, they could have softened the blow of the welfare reforms.

“The Leave campaign leveraged the local grievances that were caused by austerity and effectively sought to pin the blame on the EU. While I think the average Leave voter is actually a long-time Eurosceptic (around 1/3 of the voting population), the marginal voter that tipped the scale supported Leave as a protest vote, but not because they were diehard Europesceptics. That protest vote build up since 2010 and erupted in the EU referendum.

“Campaign slogans that read "let spend the 350 million on our priorities, not theirs" -- or, "our money, our priorities" obviously chimed well with an electorate whose local economies have borne the brunt of budget cuts.

“There is growing evidence that areas in which austerity-induced protest voting is most ripe, the swing back to remain is strongest (my new paper Alabarese & Fetzer, 2018 - "Who is NOT voting for Brexit anymore"), as it becomes clearer by the day that the promises of the Leave campaign were simply not credible promises to begin with.”

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29 March 2019


Peter Thorley

Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics)


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