Brexit: What's the most pro-European city in Britain?

Well, at least this lot were pro-EU. Image: AFP/Getty.

Last Thursday, Britain held a referendum, and – sit down, this may come as a shock - voted to leave the European Union. The result was close, but clear: 51.9 per cent voted leave, against 48.1 per cent for remain. (The turnout was 72.2 per cent.)

Individual areas though showed much more decisive results. Scotland and Northern Ireland went remain; England and Wales went leave. London, too, was much more enthusiastic for EU membership than either of the countries of which it's meant to be capital.

So what of Britain's other cities? What do they think of the whole thing? 

As ever, we need to define terms first. The figures in the chart below are based on local authority boundaries, which inevitably throws up oddities. It kind of makes sense for some of the smaller cities (Oxford City is as good a definition of Oxford as you’re likely to get). But it means that Manchester's number doesn't take into account the votes of people who live five minutes walk from the city centre in Salford, Birmingham's include Longbridge but not Solihull, and so forth.

It also means it's pretty difficult to come up with a fair comparison with London's vote – the only "London" authority is conurbation-wide, and so includes the sort of places that don’t make the cut in most of the other major cities. There's no right answer as to how to make the fairest comparison; so I've included stats for both Inner London, and Greater London, just to get a sense. 

Now that’s all out of the way, here's a chart showing the percentage of voters opting for remain in 30 selected British cities.

Click to expand.

Major cities are generally more pro-European than the UK-wide average: of the 30 on this chart, only seven fall below the national average. (That doesn't necessarily translate to "Remain" getting more than 50 per cent of the vote, however, and Leave won a majority in five more.)

Inner London is more EU-friendly than any British city except Edinburgh (another place heavily dependent on financial services), and Cambridge (university town, pretty international, and a place, one imagines, where the EU's spending on science is at its most visible).

For once, the standard regional pattern that tends to pop up in these things is nowhere to be seen. Scottish cities are generally more pro-remain, but otherwise, the results are all over the map. If there is a trend, it’s that struggling post-industrial cities are generally more Eurosceptic than those with big cultural or service industries.

There are exceptions, though: Dundee is quite pro-European (the Scotland effect at work); Southend and Portsmouth aren't. It was said before the vote that the biggest predictor of whether someone was voting Remain was whether they had a degree; that would seem to fit with these results.

The big question, though, is – what on earth is going on Birmingham that makes it so much less pro-European than every other of Britain's major conurbations?

As we noted at the start, though, in the larger conurbations, these figures only represent the key local authority, rather than the larger city region. We'll look at those another day.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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Coming soon: CityMetric will relaunch as City Monitor, a new publication dedicated to the future of cities

Coming soon!

Later this month, CityMetric will be relaunching with an entirely new look and identity, as well as an expanded editorial mission. We’ll become City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications coming soon from New Statesman Media Group. We can’t wait to share the new website with you, but in the meantime, here’s what CityMetric readers should know about what to expect from this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is going to be a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission will be to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we’ll cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing, and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications this fall, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

City Monitor will go live later this month. In the meantime, please visit citymonitor.ai to sign up for our forthcoming email newsletter.


As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our forthcoming digs. You can already follow City Monitor on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, sign up or keep following our existing account, which will switch over to our new name shortly. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

In the meantime, stay tuned, and thank you from all of us for being a loyal CityMetric reader. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.