The question of why Wales voted to leave the EU can in large part be answered by the number of English retired people who have moved across the border, research has found.
Despite being one of the biggest beneficiaries of EU funding, Wales voted leave by a majority of 52% to 48% in the 2016 referendum – a result that took some analysts by surprise. However, work by Danny Dorling, a professor of geography at Oxford, found that the result could in part be attributed to the influence of English voters.
“If you look at the more genuinely Welsh areas, especially the Welsh-speaking ones, they did not want to leave the EU,” Dorling told the Sunday Times. “Wales was made to look like a Brexit-supporting nation by its English settlers.”
About 21% (650,000) of people living in Wales were born in England, with nearly a quarter aged over 65. The country voted for Brexit by a majority of just 82,000.
Border towns and areas of central Wales with large English communities, such as Wrexham and Powys, recorded a higher proportion of leave votes, whereas Welsh-speaking areas such as Gwynedd and Ceredigion had high remain votes.
Dorling’s research, which was presented at the British Science Association’s annual meeting at Warwick University, also suggested that most of the UK’s leave votes did come not from the north of England but the south, with the highest numbers in areas populated with affluent older people, such as Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon.
“The Welsh did not want to quit the EU, but that is one of many false beliefs about Brexit. The biggest is that the pro-leave vote was due to northerners,” he said. “It’s true some northern areas were strongly pro-Brexit, but the population there is too small to swing the vote.
“The real support for Brexit, in terms of numbers of votes, was in places like Cornwall, which was 57% for leave, Hampshire with 54%, Essex with 62% and Norfolk with 57%. It is those southern English voters that are dragging Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland unwillingly out of Europe.
“Everyone blames Wigan and Stoke for Brexit but we should really be blaming Cornwall and Devon.”
English people living in Wales tilted it towards Brexit, research finds – The Guardian