Brexit Tribes in 13 Ranked Questions

A recent article by Pagel and Cooper: People’s Vote analysis: 40% of the public up for grabs by either side is very interesting in that it groups voters by the ordering of the questions on Table 1. The article then groups voters into 8 categories as shown in Fig. 1.

Table 1. Thirteen Challenges facing the UK


Grouping or clustering is always quite difficult, but this is an interesting approach. The 40% of people who might change their mind are unsurprisingly the 4 groups in the middle.

Fig. 1 Eight types of voter. (From Pagel & Cooper)


In my own case there are some of the questions that I think are extremely important and others which are of little importance at all. Ranking is an interesting exercise and I would love to set up a survey so that the Progressive Pulse readers can make their own choices, but all the ones I have found have been tick box exercises.

I thought it might be instructive to set out my own ranking with reasons.

1. Reducing the Gap between richest and poorest people in the UK

Given the corrosive effect of inequality, not least that money buys power, influence and apparently even referendums, this has to be number one. Sadly wealth inequality seems to be getting greater rather than less and Brexit is likely to make this even worse. The UK is one of the most unequal societies in Europe. The Equality Trust is a good source of information and The Spirit Level a good book on the subject.

2. Reducing the Gap between Poorest and Richest Regions of the UK

The UK is the most unequal society regionally in Europe. This has been discussed in detail here on PP by Charles Adams in his The UK: A divided country post. It is vital this is reduced. Again Brexit is likely to make matters worse in that it will hit the poorest regions hardest. This also has been a persistent theme on PP see also: Is London and the SE a Boon to the Rest of the UK or a Parasite?

3.  Making sure there are enough jobs for everyone and that workers are paid fairly

Fair pay and good jobs are obviously very important. What is worrying in the UK is that whereas there is near full employment, much of this is in low skilled areas such as retail, call centres, distribution – not to mention zero hours contracts. The UK is poor at adding high skilled, high value added jobs and productivity is very low in the UK as compared to our nearest neighbours – more like Spain and Italy than Germany, France, the Netherlands and Ireland.

4. Ensuring everyone can afford decent housing

Again this is an absolute must. There are interesting debates to be had as to why the UK has done so poorly and possibly not just on the supply side, though headlines such as UK facing its biggest housing shortfall on record with backlog of 4m homes, research shows are more frequent. There is significant regional inequality with many of the northern cities in decline. A better regional policy would help here but the situation is complex as Peter May discussed in the recent PP article Another dysfunctional market – housing.

5. Reducing the pressure on public services

I found this a very leading question. The pressure on public services has been caused by the austerity agenda and has been a political choice caused by a lack of supply rather than increased demand. There is a commonly held, but erroneous belief, that the pressure has been caused by immigration.

6. Ensuring Strong Economic Growth

The UK is supposedly already the 5th largest economy in the world (though may be 6th or 7th as both France and India have near identical GDPs). Economic growth can well have implications for the environment and climate change. The right sort of growth is very good and there is no doubt that large sectors are completely undervalued – in the care sector for example. Expanding the Green economy should also have a very high priority as championed by the Green New Deal group.

7. Ensuring State Benefits are treated Fairly

This is another ambiguous question – probably deliberately. I am very worried about the slashing of state benefits, particularly to the disabled and the potential damage Universal Credit is likely to have. How a society treats its poor and vulnerable is an acid test of a fair society. A PP guest post and book by Mo Stewart sets out the problem very well.

Some right wing respondents may be more motivated by Benefit Fraud particularly from benefit tourists. This is of course an extremely minor problem, amplified beyond any reason by some of the right-wing media.

8. Preserving Traditional British Culture

For me this is very important. Preservation of Scots Gaelic and the Welsh language for example would be high on my list of priorities. Traditions and folklore are wonderful things as I have set out in an earlier PP article Disgust with the Guardian. It is vitally important however that a country like the UK embraces ethnic and cultural diversity and realises it is much enhanced by immigration. Culture evolves all the time.

The right wing closed mind may see this as British/English culture being under threat and being swamped by outsiders – particularly Muslims.

9. Reducing the total number of people immigrating to the UK

Foreign workers are vitally needed for the British economy and it is extremely difficult to reduce immigration without damaging the UK. That said the number of EU migrants under freedom of movement has fallen dramatically and it seems that non Europeans are taking up the slack. The number of net migrants from the A8 countries (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) for example has actually turned negative. Non EU immigration is now three times that those from the EU.

10. Ensuring Britain has Control over its own Laws and Regulations

Britain has remained sovereign during its time in the EU and has control over its own laws in vast areas. Regulations of course are different. There has been griping about light-bulbs and vacuum cleaners for example – as a Green I am totally in favour of these measures as Climate Change is the most significant threat in the 21st century. Unfortunately in the modern world regulations need to be pan-national. This is discussed in Anthony Barnett’s excellent article Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty which is well worth reading in full. The UK will have to choose between EU and US regulations.

11. Limiting immigration to high-skilled workers or sectors with significant shortages

This again appeals to a certain type of person. In particular the £50,000 salary figure for a high-skilled worker is ridiculous. Very large sectors of skilled people from nurses, teachers, university lecturers and junior doctors are below this threshold. There will have to be so many exemptions made that this badly thought out populist idea will be unworkable.

12. Allowing Britain to make its own trade deals

I have seen no evidence that the UK has the heft or capacity to do this better outside the EU than inside the EU. The EU has decades of experience and almost certainly the best trade negotiating team in the world. The whole concept I think is completely crazy but appeals to a certain type of Brexiter who imagines the world to still be like the 1880’s. In the modern world, the EU, the US and China are the only three countries/blocks which can set all important regulations. The UK will effectively have to choose most likely between the EU and US and there are significant forces within the Tory party which very much want to move the UK into the orbit of the US, with Liam Fox possibly being the most prominent supporter.

13. Maintaining the Union of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.

It is no secret that I am an Irish Nationalist and believe NI would have a much better and more prosperous future within a United Ireland – though this would have to be done slowly and carefully over say a 15 year timescale.

Up till recently I had hoped Scotland would remain part of the UK. This was for selfish reasons, because I thought without the Scots the likelihood of England becoming a right-wing dystopia would be very much enhanced. I have changed my mind and think Scotland has a much better chance of a brighter and prosperous future outside the UK. England is responsible for Brexit and will need to come to terms with it in its own way (although I still hope Brexit does not happen).


Not surprisingly perhaps, I am firmly in the Left Wing camp as defined by the original article. These are an interesting set of questions however and are good at exposing the fault lines that have appeared in our society. It is an thought provoking exercise and I would welcome any suggestion as to how to set this up online – though our previous experience was that the right wing trolls seem to appear en-mass when we set up a poll.


  1. Adrian Kent. -

    I broadly agree with your ordering, but I’d like to hear how you think that our continued EU membership would actually help with any of the issues given that these are issues AFTER four decades of membership. You haven’t gone much further than stating that Brexit could make things worse.

    Of course Brexit could make things worse, but by what mechanisims do you forsee the EU making these things better in the short or long-term?

    Your first 2 are both propelled by the FoM of Capital – and likely the rest of the top 6 too – good luck doing anything about that inside the EU.

    1. Peter May -

      But Cyprus as part of the EU and also part of the Euro has had capital controls – albeit they were not for ever. Britain, too, could have capital controls and legally they might have to be temporary – but how temporary is temporary?

  2. Andrew Dickie -

    Frankly, important though all of these are, the issue that stands behind and above all of them is how we can build a system to combat the poisonous influence of James McGill Buchanan’s vision of “totalitarian capitalism”, and the unfairly weighted power of the shady oligarchs, such as the Kich and Barclay Brothers, who have energetically funded the attack by stealth on democracy.

    See George Monbiot:

    Given that these oligarchs are also viscerally opposed to both the theory of, and attempts to address, the burning (almost literally) issue of climate breakdown, they are effectively the other side of a single coin.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Absolutely correct and this terrifies me. I’m sure many of the biggest backers of Brexit are absolutely hoping for this outcome and it will be easier to achieve after a chaotic no deal Brexit

      1. Andrew Dickie -

        My two comments below should have been replies this post of Sean Danaher’s, but I placed them incorrectly. Apologies.

  3. Donald Liverpool -

    You’ve gotten hysterical Sean. Consider point number one – the UK is terribly unequal, corrosively so you say, and of all the things that are bad about it, this is number one. What should be the consequences of this? Little morsels of reality like net immigration ( at an all time high ) seem to show people voting against your view with their feet. You might say that the rate of net immigration is below its peak and that is true, but the net number is still a record.
    And in all the ranting about Brexit you still cannot engage with the EU’s primary fiscal purpose, the thing that distinguishes it from the EFTA/EEA option, the thing that dominates and shapes our landscapes, the primary feature of the EU Customs Union, and the regulations that stop the recipients of the hand-outs from being more productive.
    13 points you’ve come up with and the number one item in the budget has completely passed you by. Do you ever stop and notice the actual road, or is your whole eviscerally anti-Brexit life spent looking at the verges, markings and junctions?

    1. Peter May -

      “13 points you’ve come up with and the number one item in the budget has completely passed you by”
      But you haven’t told us what it is!

    2. Sean Danaher -

      Hysterical is a novel accusation! And indeed is “eviscerally anti-Brexit life” might be considered a bit strong – in truth I am more amused than annoyed – but it may violate our comments policy – see bottom menu.

      You have alluded to the fiscal purpose of the EU before. I’m still not sure I understand your arguments here and indeed have suggested you submit an article on the subject. Your “stop the recipients of the hand-outs from being more productive” is strange as UK productivity is way behind our closest EU neighbours: the Netherlands, France, Ireland and Germany.

      Please feel free to rank the questions any way you wish. I suspect you may put net immigration higher from some of you remarks. Net immigration indeed still remains high despite the fact that net EU immigration has dropped by about 50% since the referendum. This suggested to me it is not the EU that is the issue.

      It seems also that you are less concerned about Brexit than I am. That’s fine – there are loads of other blogs out there – reading PP is totally optional.

  4. Samuel Johnson -

    Not tempted to move?

    1. Sean Danaher -

      moving is down to personal circumstance – if I were on my own I would move back to Ireland tomorrow. Things may change in a few year when my wife retires and mu son leaves school.

      1. Samuel Johnson -

        I think moving every few years is therapeutic. I’ve felt inclined to stay everywhere we’ve lived / dreaded moving in advance but never regretted any move afterwards. I view it like this: if you didn’t have misgivings and a sense of loss about moving you should have done so earlier. I’ve moved on from organisations that subsequently died, knowing it had to be done, on a couple of occasions. Was a satisfying coincidence getting a place in graduate school in US the day Charles Haughey was re-elected in Ireland — wanted to get out. I’m amazed at the resilience of people like Tanja Bueltmann fighting instead of voting with their feet. No, awed by is better.

        Picked up a book today (Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden) with a frontispiece quote by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

        Wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.

        Will apply to Brexit soon perhaps.

  5. Graham -

    My ranking would be very similar to yours. Although these questions/issues are important, although somewhat opaque in meaning – what is meant by “British Culture”, for example, is it Last Night of the Proms celebration of English exceptionalism, or as you describe? – where did these issues come from? The researchers, or was there preliminary research teasing out what a random sample thought were the issues? And was it possible to non-rank an issue, for even if you allot “Maintaining the Union” to #13 suggests you give it some importance. I would have liked a category “No importance whatsoever” where I would have dumped the “precious Union”. And what about issues not asked about, such as “getting rid of this fascistic government in bed with big business and oligarchs” which I would put fairly high up?

    OK, interesting none the less.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Yes I agree with all of that there is ceartainly an imperialist militaristic aspect of British culture I am deeply unhappy with. I think the questions are deliberately kept ambiguous.

  6. Andrew (Andy) Crow -

    Not much argument with that set of priorities and rationale, Sean.

    Any differences I have are barely worth the effort of pressing keys.

    I was pleased to agree with you on the ‘loading’ of some of the questions. Some of them depend entirely upon interpretation.

  7. Andrew Dickie -

    Especially since it would appear that the election of Bolsonaro – a thuggish Fascist, who thinks the military dictatorship didn’t kill enough Leftists – appears to be Strike 3 for the unregulated use of tailored social media, the other 2 being the BREXIT Referendum and the election of Trump.

    Every commentator and pollster agreed that Lula would have walked that election, but it would seem they used WhatsApp in Brazil to “manufacture consent”, to use Chomsky’s painfully accurate term.

    Now Banks is under investigation – at last – maybe something will change next time round, but BREXIT, Trump and now Bolsanaro constitute three punctured, so hindering, flat tyres on the vehicle of global polity.

    Fortunately, the vehicle isn’t a mere 4-wheeler, but its functionality has been severely hampered.

  8. Andrew Dickie -

    Final point on Bolsonaro and Lula:

    This is from a Glen Greenwald tweet, which might not have been accessible to all your readers.

    “To recap:

    * All polls throughout 2018 show Lula would easily win the presidency
    * Judge Moro rushes to convict Lula on dubious charges, preventing him from running
    * Bolsonaro wins with Lula in jail
    * Moro to get high, powerful position in Bolsonaro’s government

    The acid test will be how long Lula survives. My bet is that he will be killed in a gang-led brawl in prison, before Christmas.

    1. Sean Danaher -


      Thanks. All this psy-ops is deeply troubling and its good Arron Banks has been referred to the National Crime Agency. What is deeply troubling is that he has been invited to put his case on the BBC:
      this seems extraordinary inappropriate.

      I worry that there is a lot more to discover, but there almost seems to be a coverup from UKGov. Political sensitivity is the reason given but It may be far more troubling than that. If it wasn’t for the dogged work of journalists like Carole Cadwalladr and Peter Geoghegan none of this might have came out.

      Brazil is deeply troubling and thanks for the link.

  9. Sean Danaher -

    our comments are only nested three deep – this is a reply to you comment about moving. I can’t say I have moved as much as you but have moved a number of times. My wife still feels she is making a difference in her lifelong passion the NHS, she is leading a national effort in intensive care (she has previously been president of the Intensive Care society and Dean of the Faculty of Intensive care – the two top national positions in Intensive Care in the UK).

    Haughey’s type of politics “cute hoorism” something akin to what the English call a “wide boy” was deeply distasteful. I had hoped that type of politics was long gone but the DUP seem to have taken up the mantle with the RHI scandal.

    Haughey made some of his initial fortune by rezoning land from agricultural to building land in north Co Dublin and was notorious for his smoke filled rooms, brown envelopes and backhander deals. It was a very depressing time. The early 80s economy was also incredibly depressed.

    2018 however has been a great year for Ireland – the referendums and presidential election were a triumph. It was fantastic that the dark forces seen so recently in Brazil had little effect Ans of course Brexit rather than depressing the Irish economy seems to have turbocharged it.

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