24th June 2016
The results of the referendum are in, and the UK has voted to Leave the European Union.
Leave won 51.9 per cent of the vote to Remain’s 48.1 per cent. The gap between the two sides was almost 1.3 million votes; Leave took 17,410,742 votes and Remain gained 16,141,241. A passionate campaign from both sides triggered a high turnout of 72 per cent.
Uncertainty stemming from this decision instantly hit the financial markets, triggering the biggest drop in the value of sterling since 1985 and an eight per cent fall in the FTSE 100. There has also been a major political fallout, with Prime Minster David Cameron announcing his intention to resign once the Conservative Party has chosen a successor, setting the deadline as the party conference in October.
National voting patterns have exposed divisions within British society. Largely metropolitan areas came out in support of Britain’s continued EU membership, whereas more conservative, rural areas of the country overwhelmingly backed Brexit. The referendum also exposed huge differences between the regions of the UK, with England and Wales voting to Leave and Scotland and Northern Ireland voting to Remain. A difference in voting preference based on age was expected and has been proven correct, with over 55s largely voting for Leave and around 75 per cent of young people voting to Remain.
Both campaigns have been heavily criticised for their tone, with the Leave campaign being criticised for its focus on immigration, and Remain being criticised for pursuing ‘Project Fear’, which many people equated with an attempt from ‘the establishment’ to bully them into voting to Remain.
Many people felt that both campaigns were dominated by political obsessives and didn’t offer many facts to undecided voters. The campaign however did energise a huge turnout of voters, far above what we normally see in general elections.
Voting patterns in the South – South West
As a whole, the South and South West have largely voted for Leave, with wider national trends being repeated across the region’s rural communities and cities with large student populations. Interestingly, cities in the region were split, with more prosperous cities such as Winchester, Bristol, Bath, Cheltenham and Exeter voting to Remain, whilst Basingstoke, Swindon, Southampton and Portsmouth voted to Leave. Bournemouth and Plymouth also voted to Leave, as did the Torbay area.
The rural areas of the South West predominantly voted to Leave: Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset voted out, as did Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, and the Isle of Wight.
What could this vote mean for rural and coastal businesses?
The vote to Leave has significant implications for businesses, such as farming, shipping and fishing across the South and South West. A huge debate will emerge on whether the UK will continue to subsidise farming to the same extent as the European Union has done. Many people in Britain’s fishing industry will see the vote to leave as a golden opportunity to revitalise the fishing industry and create new jobs in our coastal towns. Shipping businesses too may be affected, as they may now face a new system of regulation and tariffs .
What happens next?
The UK now waits to find out who the Conservative Party will chose to take over from David Cameron, and whether they will call a general election before officially starting to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU. When the new Prime Minister triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which will begin the process of negotiating an exit, the UK will have two years from that date to agree a new deal with the EU.