More than 100 seats that backed Brexit now want to remain in EU


AUGUST 12, 2018

The constituencies of Leavers Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have changed sides to back remain, polling shows. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Major new analysis shows most constituencies now have majority who want to Remain

LONDON – More than 100 Westminster constituencies that voted to leave the EU have now switched their support to Remain, according to a stark new analysis seen by the Observer.

In findings that could have a significant impact on the parliamentary battle of Brexit later this year, the study concludes that most seats in Britain now contain a majority of voters who want to stay in the EU.

The analysis, one of the most comprehensive assessments of Brexit sentiment since the referendum, suggests the shift has been driven by doubts among Labour voters who backed Leave.

As a result, the trend is starkest in the north of England and Wales – Labour heartlands in which Brexit sentiment appears to be changing. The development will heap further pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to soften the party’s opposition to reconsidering Britain’s EU departure.

Researchers at the Focaldata consumer analytics company compiled the breakdown by modelling two YouGov polls of more than 15,000 people in total, conducted before and after Theresa May published her proposed Brexit deal on 6 July.

It combined the polling with detailed census information and data from the Office for National Statistics. The study was jointly commissioned by Best for Britain, which is campaigning against Brexit, and the anti-racist Hope Not Hate group.

The 632 seats in England, Scotland and Wales were examined for the study. It found that 112 had switched from Leave to Remain. The new analysis suggests there are now 341 seats with majority Remain support, up from 229 seats at the referendum.

One seat has switched support in Scotland and 97 have switched in England, while 14 of the 40 seats in Wales have changed from Leave to Remain. Overall, the model puts Remain on 53% support, with 47% backing Leave.

It suggests that there is now a majority for Remain in Scotland and Wales – meaning greater pressure on the union following the UK’s departure. Young voters and those from ethnic minorities have also driven the switch to Remain.

It comes with the prime minister still having to negotiate Commons votes over Brexit later this year and also the prospect of a parliamentary vote over the final Brexit deal. Plans are already being drawn up by May’s opponents to try to force a new referendum or election.

On Saturday Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said those opponents had to work together to bring about a chance for people to have another say. “We have to work across party frontiers,” he said, speaking in Bristol at the first of a series of regional rallies in a planned summer of action by the People’s Vote campaign.

Data scientists compiling the study used a technique known as multi-level regression and post-stratification, similar to that used by YouGov in its pre-election model, which proved far more accurate than conventional opinion polls. However, the polling sample used by YouGov for its election model was much bigger, covering some 50,000 people.

Among the constituencies to switch from Leave to Remain is that of Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary and face of the Leave campaign. Support for Remain in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency has risen from 43.6% to 51.4%, according to the new model.

Surrey Heath, the constituency of the other Leave figurehead, Michael Gove, also emerged as having a pro-Remain majority. Support for Remain increased from 48% in 2016 to 50.2%. There was also a 12.8-point swing to Remain in shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s seat of Hayes and Harlington.

The Birkenhead constituency of Leave-supporting Labour MP Frank Field now has a 58% majority in favour of remain. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

The seats of three pro-Leave Labour MPs switched to Remain. Birkenhead, Frank Field’s constituency, now has a 58.4% majority in favour of Remain. Graham Stringer’s Blackley and Broughton constituency now has a 59% in favour of Remain. Kelvin Hopkins’s Luton North seat now has 53.1% backing Remain.

The doubts among Labour Leave voters have been accompanied by a less dramatic hardening of Brexit support among Tory voters. While no constituencies saw a switch from Remain to Leave, support for Brexit went up in some constituencies.

Of the seats that have switched to Remain since the referendum, some of the most dramatic swings have taken place in Liverpool Walton, where support for Remain has risen from 46.2% to 60.5%, Knowsley on Merseyside, where Remain has increased from 47.6% to 61%, and Swansea East, where Remain has risen from 37.9% to 50.7%.

Remain campaigners said that the findings should give more MPs the confidence to back a Brexit rethink. However, some pro-Remain MPs are still doubtful that there has been a significant shift and think a second vote would be a huge risk.

Eloise Todd, the chief executive of Best for Britain, said: “This groundbreaking research shows that Brexit is still not inevitable. People across the UK have witnessed the last two years of uncertainty with dismay and are thinking differently – 112 constituencies have switched to majorities that back staying in our current bespoke deal with the EU.

“The sands of public opinion are shifting and politicians risk falling behind. Our research shows that the deal must be put to the people. Westminster should legislate for a people’s vote on the Brexit terms, giving the public the option to stay and build our future on our current deal with the EU.”

Nick Lowles, head of Hope not Hate, said: “Our data shows a clear shift in public opinion against Brexit and people’s growing anxiety over how leaving the EU will affect themselves and their families. This cannot be ignored.

“The rate of change appears to be quickening as the realities of what Brexit would mean become more apparent and the fears of a no-deal Brexit grow, especially for Labour Leave voters who initially believed that leaving the EU would improve their economic prospects. Brexit is failing these voters and the country as a whole. Politicians need to understand that public opinion has changed.”

Courtesy: The Guardian