Brexit supporters say they’re worried about immigration. The real problems are deeper.


Daniel Davies in Vox:

One big factor is that the character of a neighborhood is changed by the kind of people who move out just as much as by the kind of people who move in. And regional migration within the UK has been a big phenomenon over the past 20 years, as London and the Southeast have grown – economically and in population terms – much faster than the rest of the country.

Some of the most Euroskeptical areas have seen rapid declines in their population. In Stoke-on-Trent, for example, the local council has so many empty homes that it sometimes sells them for £1 each, in a publicity stunt aimed at attracting economically active people.

This depopulation has been driven by deindustrialization. While the UK has in general been good at creating jobs and keeping unemployment down, the northern and coastal towns where Brexit support is the highest tend to be home to either difficult and dangerous labor-intensive industries or low-level service industry employers like hotels and care homes. As the UK labor force has got more productive and better educated, on average, it’s unsurprising that workers have tended to migrate to the higher-paid new jobs being created in the growing regions around London.

Lopsided and London-centric development is a real problem. And of course, although it is an old cliché for miners and fishermen to hope that their children don’t follow them, that doesn’t make it any less painful to have your children (and now grandchildren) living on the other side of the country, in a world that’s culturally and economically even further away than its geographic distance.

It’s particularly challenging when the housing and employment vacuum created by their departure gets filled with new European immigrants, who act as very visible symbols of the underlying change when you interact with them in their service jobs, or at the doctor’s office.

More here.