Two views of Brexit: Richard J. Evans reviews two books in the TLS & Bernard Connolly ‘s introduction to the 2012 edition of ‘The Rotten Heart of Europe’. Old Socialist makes some observations.


176pp. Yale University Press. £16.99 (US $25). 

Vernon Bogdanor 


Britain and the European Union from 1945 to Brexit 
352pp. Oxford University Press. £25 (US $35). 

Stephen Wall 

In this long paragraph Mr. Evens quotes Bogdanor’s argument about the opposition of ‘provincial England’ to the EU, but in his explanation of Bogdanor’s ‘oversimplification’ Evans resorts to a carefully homogenized version of the uneducated lower orders verses the educated elites. But the fact that the uneducated lower order cast ballots, unlike those of the elite minimal turnout, according Evans’ statistical data.

‘Added to the question of immigration as an impulse behind the growing support for Brexit was the economic crisis in 2008, which, Bogdanor argues, had its most significant impact on “the disadvantaged and insecure, the victims of social and economic change, who were alienated from the banking and financial establishment”. This provoked a “grass-roots insurgency in provincial England which led to Brexit”. The vote for Brexit was a vote against the elites by people who felt ignored by them. But this diagnosis, though not wholly wrong, is a considerable oversimplification. To begin with, the strongest correlation with support for Brexit was education. Seventy per cent of voters whose education stopped at GCSE level voted Leave; of voters with a university degree, only 32 per cent supported Leave. This dovetailed neatly with voting patterns by age. Seventy-one per cent of voters under twenty-five supported Remain; of voters over the age of sixty-five, only 36 per cent supported Remain. This reflected not least the fact that up to the early 1970s under 10 per cent of eighteen- to twenty-one-year-olds were or had been in higher education, while by 2011/12 the rate had risen to nearly 50 per cent (for eighteen- to thirty-year-olds). In other words, the older you were in 2016, the less likely you were to have a degree and the more likely you were to vote Leave. How you interpret this is a matter of preference: the ignorant against the informed, or the masses against an arrogant and uncaring elite, or the nostalgic against the forward-looking? The final statistic to throw into the mix is voter turnout. Sixty-four per cent of registered voters aged eighteen to twenty-four exercised their right to cast a ballot paper, but among those aged sixty-five and over, the turnout was 90 per cent. This relative reluctance of the young to go to the polls was a material influence in swinging the outcome in favour of Brexit.’

Breaking up is hard to do

For the case against The E.U., in a shortened, but evocatively polemical form, read Bernard Connolly’s introduction to the 2012 edition of his The Rotten Heart of Europe. This is a link to the Kindle edition of Connolly’s book, that makes available to the reader, the whole of that invaluable introduction.

Old Socialist

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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