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AGE OF EXODUS

The Brits who might force Britain out of the EU won’t have to live with the consequences

An elderly couple sits on deck chairs on a cool afternoon
Reuters/Luke MacGregor
Island dwellers.
  • Cassie Werber
By Cassie Werber

Reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Age is one of the biggest predictors of whether or not a British person will vote to leave the European Union. Polling shows that older people are more likely to vote “leave” when the UK votes in a referendum this month.

And one age specifically has turned out to be the tipping point, according to data from pollster YouGov compiled by The Times. It’s 43.

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Older people are also more likely to vote than the young. In the UK’s most recent general election, turnout among over-65s was 78%, according to pollster Ipsos Mori. Among the 18-24 age group it was just 43%.

The closer people are to the end of their lives, the more likely they are to want to leave the EU. So, older voters won’t have to live with the consequences of a “Brexit” for so long as the young will.

And those at the beginning of their careers will also arguably have to carry a greater burden if the country opts out of the union.

One of the main arguments for leaving the EU is to limit immigration. But the UK has an aging population, and with a proportionally smaller taxable, working-age population, government revenue to pay for state pensions and services such as health is dropping. Immigration is one way countries with such a demographic shift can bolster their working-age, tax-paying population.

Of course, this could also reduce the services that Britain’s aging population relies on, but not necessarily for those who are voting “out” now. Any such changes would take a while to filter through, meaning that the oldest voters today could be shielded from them.

There’s one problem older Brexiteers might encounter if the UK exits—and it might prove a silver lining for the young. UK house prices have seen enormous gains in the last 50 years, sending older owners’ investments skywards. Those who bought homes cheap and have seen their value accrue might hope to fall back on their property value to support their retirement.

But that value could be curbed by a Brexit. The UK Chancellor said in May that house prices could fall by 18% if the country votes to leave. It was framed as a dire warning, but young people struggling to buy homes might see it as a welcome relief.

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