Shut up, Brexit Babies: The Numbers

The numbers always tell the story, which is why this blog gives you the most accurate and complete data statistics on critical issues. Brexit is a case in point as it tells not only the story in Great Britain with regards to the vote to leave the European Union, but it also tells a chilly and cryptic tale about American elections, the looming presidential election in particular.

First a few useful numbers for comparison and clarity. As of 2013 there are around 64 million people living in Great Britain, According to Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) there are roughly 46 million registered to vote. Demographically, that sounds a bit high. That would mean only 18 million are below the age to vote, or otherwise prevented from voting somehow, but it is the official record so we’ll stick with our data. For comparison the USA has 319 million people, with roughly 150 million registered voters. Adjusting for population size, the GB numbers are pretty close. Always, as I have told my college aged sister-in-law, Nina, stand by your data. So, 46 million it is.

The issue, largely, at least that’s what many voted for, had to do with immigration. Muslim and African immigrants became the poster children for alarmist rhetoric despite only representing a very small fraction of immigrants to GB. More than 93% of immigrants to GB come from other EU states. The vast majority are from Poland, with Ireland 2nd and  a large portion of the rest from other Western European states. Brits are capable of living and working in other European states, but do so much less. Some might view that as a lack of competition on the part of Brits. In fact, most immigration to GB was for work, followed by education and third, family members joining family already residing in GB. Refugees, not so much.

The vote was, in a word, lackluster. Working class families, already pinched by dwindling factory and manufacturing jobs (sound familiar?) opted more for a split, their sense of security or insecurity heightened by anti-immigrant rhetoric. The unemployment overall in GB falls currently at an average of 5%, down from  a high of more than 8% in 2011. There’s a reality there. Like the US, its higher in some places and lower elsewhere. Many communities never fully recovered under the nation’s worst employment under Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) which peaked at 1984, or from  a severe recession during the 1990s. That factors here, because the strongest voting block was ground zero for both those painful unemployment periods.caption.

Ranked 59th In the world, GB has a mortality rate of 9.3/1000, compared with the US at 8.1 deaths per 1000 people. That’s important. With a net of 190,000 immigrants annually there is at least a partial offset to a nation in the top 30% of nations with high mortality rates. That’s called replacement rate. Birth rates in western nations have fallen since the end of the Second World War. in the EU the average is 1.5 children per woman, down by more than half in that period.

In fact, there is a demographic change in England, as there is in the US. the world is changing. That is a reality. In 2001 the “white” population of the UK, including foreign-born Europeans and the Irish was around 92%. That number in 2011 was 87%, a substantial enough change to be exploited fully by xenophobes. The difference between 2011 and 2016 likely has seen that decline even greater. Change is never easy.

Let’s be honest, 51.9% of the vote isn’t an astounding victory. Scotland did not vote overwhelmingly to remain in the EU as many Liberal US sources reported. The vote was about 60/40. England and Wales were almost identical and roughly mirrored the final 52/48% tally. Wales ,Scotland and N. Ireland account for 16% of the UK’s population. Even at 100% in favor, they were easily overwhelmed by England’s much larger population. By contrast there were, during the American Revolution, 16-20% loyalists to the King of England and 36-45% American patriots.

Voter turnout in England and Wales was between 71-73%, while Scotland and Northern Ireland came in at 67% and 63% respectively.  That means of the 46 million registered voters somewhere around 33 million voted. That’s still far better than American elections, and more young people participated in the Brexit vote than in American elections. It was the age demographics which told that tale ultimately. Like American elections, far more people over the age of 35 participated, tending towards leaving the EU than those under 35. People 18-24 voted strongly in favor of staying. Even if 100% had voted for staying in the EU, their numbers are almost inconsequential to the 35 years and up voting block where most of the votes to split came from, representing some 56% of the electorate, as opposed to the strongest block in favor of the EU, the 18-24 year olds, with around 9% of the vote.

Despite what Trump and the Right say, the EU is not about to fall domino style in a slate of referendums. First, none are scheduled. Spain, often cited would lose in a vote to split 74% in favor of remaining to 26% opposed. The two most disgruntled EU partners Italy and France, if a vote were held today would lose by 52 and 59% respectively. So on that one Trump is wrong.

So there are the numbers. The vote was a done deal in the minds of older more rural white folks in England. They cut the cord, let’s see how they go it alone. As for the presidential elections, like the Brexit vote…the devil is very much in the details.


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