A panoramic photograph of Malham Cove in North Yorkshire.

The five types of EU voters

Getting these definitions out of the way will help make future pieces I write shorter. These are exaggerations. Everyone is a mixture of the different types. There's probably some more types. There's definitely the "Jeremy Corbyn" type, but I have no idea what he believes in.


You’re probably well-educated, you’ve travelled a bit, speak another language, and at least a few of your friends aren’t British. When a Polish shop opens nearby you’re happy because it has nice bread and pickles. You don’t mind paying £1 more for a pint of beer because you’re only drinking a half anyway; you live quite centrally in a large city and there’s a lot of new places you want to try.

You’re sick of how much time Nigel Farage gets on the TV and you think that if the BBC was a bit more like the Guardian or the Economist things would be better. You get angry when almost everyone in the Question Time audience is white because it doesn’t reflect your community.

You want Britain to be part of the EU. Partly it’s so that your values are spread to other places but you’re too embarrassed to say that: cultural superiority is bad. You’re voting to stay in the EU because you don’t want to be considered foreign if you move to Denmark and you certainly don’t consider the couple from the Czech Republic who run your local sushi restaurant to be any more foreign than the Brit who manages the local bank.

You’ve gained hugely from the EU but you’ll tell people that your decision is based on how economic growth and social protections help all sections of society.

You’ll vote to stay in, along with most of the Lib Dems, the Green Party, and a good chunk of Labour.


The left behind

You think that Britain’s going in the wrong direction. There are people paying £1 too much for a pint and only drinking halves. You work hard but you earn less than your Dad did before he lost his job in a car factory, on a trawler, down a mine, or in a steelworks. The city your family left doesn’t look like it used to and you feel judged when you go back there. You hate being unfairly called a racist just because you live in a place which is mainly white.

You’re sick of people telling you that the EU has been great for Britain because you don’t see any of it. None of the people telling you how great the EU is look or sound like you. You’re jealous of the Polish shop that’s opened up on the high street; you don’t know how to start your own shop and you’ve never really been encouraged to try. If you want to go to town, the bus is a rip-off and the roads are congested because Britain’s full up.

You think we should take back control of our seas to protect our fishing industry. You think British rail should run British trains on tracks made of British steel. You think that the only reason we’ve lost these industries is because the EU made rules about free markets that no-one follows except for us.

You’ll vote with most of UKIP and some of Labour to leave the EU. You’re sick of not being listened to. You’ve worked and fought hard for this country and it’s ignoring you.



You’re probably Scottish, though there’s a group of you in Wales and plenty of you dotted around the rest of the UK, especially in Northern cities. You like the EU because it takes some power and money from Westminster and gives it to you, via Brussels. No-one in Brussels ever made you come there for a half-hour meeting, patronised you because of your accent, or assumed you were a failure based on where you live. Plus you like power and money and the EU gives you some.

You see no contradiction in Nicola Sturgeon campaigning to stay in the EU using similar arguments to those used to justify Scotland remaining in the UK. You think that those using similar arguments to the SNP’s but in this case to justify Brexit are morons. You despise nationalism while promoting a regional “civic nationalism” that is at times indistinguishable from what you despise. You attack those who call you out on all these inconsistencies but you secretly worry that they may have a point.

You think that this referendum is a complete waste of time and that the ultra-centralisation of the UK is a big part of what has left us in this situation. You’re hugely frustrated that your voice is not heard nationally but conflicted as to whether demanding a national voice is consistent with wanting greater decentralisation within the UK.

You will vote to remain in the EU, in part because the Imperialists will vote to leave but mostly because the EU replaces many of the functions that you want the UK to reduce as it decentralises.



Part of why you hate the EU is because the decentralisers like it. You opposed the creation of a Scottish parliament and now that there is one you think that there should probably be an English Parliament too. It’s only fair after all and Britain is world-renowned for its sense of fair play. Like John Redwood you think that the English parliament should be in London, the traditional home of British power.

You agree with Nigel Lawson that Ireland secretly wants to rejoin the UK and with Ian Duncan-Smith that India has largely fond memories of British rule. You absolutely refuse to accept that the Republic of Ireland is richer than the UK or that Scotland more or less pays its way within the union. Nowhere can succeed independently of Britain's institutions.

You are absolutely serious when you call Britain’s institutions — Oxford, Wimbledon, The Royal Society, The BBC, The Church of England, The Royal Family, The Proms, The Westminster Parliament, your Rugby Union team and your local golf club — the finest in the world. You think London 2012 was a national event not a local one. You agree with Michael Howard that European nations lack such stable and positive institutions and think that we need the EU much less than they need us.

You’re a big fan of localism; your community keeping outsiders away and looking after itself. You're worried about anything that threatens your place in the British hierarchy. You want your Great British institutions to deal with the world and the wealth of Britain.

Your lifestyle is suburban or semi-rural but you retain considerable interests in cities for business and leisure. You think the state is too politically correct and plays too large a role in modern life, except for farm subsidies which you think should be higher. You are hugely nationalistic but rarely need to show it because you are in charge. You dismiss as nationalists, loonies, or separatists anyone who questions your position in charge.

You will vote out, along with most of the Tory out group. Britain is the greatest country in world history and will flourish on its own.


Free-market pragmatists

You hate that EU agricultural subsidies are so high, but you accept that the EU has done better than Norway, Switzerland, Korea, or Japan at getting them down.

You celebrate European freedom of movement. You’d like to see it extended to more countries but you fear that the UK’s policy after Brexit would be closer to how it obstructs migrants now than the open borders you’d really like.

You dislike much of the European Union’s politics, regulations and social protections but you accept that they are necessary to win a consensus for free trade. You particularly hate the goal of ever-closer union, even though you admire the United States’ close union. You consider yourself enormously rational and so you’re deeply confused about how to justify that to yourself.

You’re probably still saying that you’ll vote out because you enjoy arguing and because you don’t want to be seen as a cultural Europhile.

You’ll vote to stay in the EU, along with some Lib Dems, most Tories, and a handful of New Labour; not because you like it but because its track record is generally good and because it makes you richer.

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