New research finds the areas of the UK that could be hurt most by Brexit are those that voted for it

Image: Reuters/Toby Melville
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The UK regions that voted for Brexit are most vulnerable to its effects. That’s the conclusion of a recent study that compared the impact of an EU exit on the UK versus other EU member states.

While researchers from the University of Birmingham admit it’s difficult to predict the likely long-term impacts of Brexit, they were able to quantify the shares of regional and national GDP and labor income (both in the UK and the EU) that are at risk due to Brexit. As such, researchers found that the Midlands and Northern England (the UK’s economically weaker regions) are particularly vulnerable. In contrast, London and Scotland were far less at risk.

Brexit highlighted deep divides within the UK. While Scotland and London voted to remain in the EU, Northern England and the Midlands, as well as Wales, voted to leave. The study’s finding echo previous research that found that Wales and northeast are among the areas most vulnerable to loss of funding, bad trade agreements, and a shortage of European workers. In short, these areas, which voted to leave the EU, are worst exposed to the economic impact of Brexit.

The study also found that the UK as a whole is far more exposed to trade-related risks of Brexit than any other European Union (EU) member state. This makes the UK far more dependent on an orderly and comprehensive free trade deal than Europe, researchers note in the study. It is currently hammering out that deal with the EU on a much shorter timeline than it wanted.

The UK’s exposure to Brexit is some 4.6 times greater than that of the rest of the EU as a whole. The study estimates that 12% of UK GDP is at risk of Brexit trade-related consequences, compared with 2.64% of EU GDP. The study also notes that if the UK were to leave the EU without a beneficial trade deal in place,  or with a deal in which the UK’s access to the block is severely restricted, it would be left in a far more damaging position than the rest of the EU.

“Mercantilist arguments popular in the UK media, which posit that the UK trade deficit with the rest of Europe implies that on economic grounds other EU member states will be eager to agree a free trade deal with the UK, are not correct,” researchers note in the report.

Although it has been over a year since Britain voted to leave the EU, recent opinion polls have shown little shift amongst the views of voters. While people disapprove of the government’s handling of Brexit, few are changing where they stand on the debate.