Austerity may have been a major driving factor behind the vote to leave the European Union in the June referendum, a recent study has suggested.
Research by the University of Warwick has found that cuts made by David Cameron's Coalition government may have played a significant role in the 'Leave' vote result in the EU referendum.
The study said:
...we find that the quality of public service provision is also systematically related to the Vote Leave share. In particular, fiscal cuts in the context of the recent UK austerity programme are strongly associated with a higher Vote Leave share. We also produce evidence that lower-quality service provision in the National Health Service is associated with the success of Vote Leave.
The study also found that socio-economic factors in inner city areas which pointed to poor infrastructure and social services, were linked to a rise in support of the 'Leave' vote:
We confirm that even across wards within cities (for instance, across wards in the Borough of Greenwich in London), ‘weak’ socio-economic fundamentals are strong predictors of the Vote Leave share. The same pattern as across local authority areas can thus be observed across wards, even within large cities. The fact that support for Vote Leave may be less visible in a large city like London is merely down to composition effects in that London has relatively strong socio-economic fundamentals on average compared to the rest of the country.
The researchers also implied that making reductions in austerity cuts might have reduced support for the 'Leave' campaign, citing elsewhere in the study the persuasiveness of the infamous £350 million figure pledged to the NHS on the side of a bus.
Our (speculative) back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that even just a slightly more moderate regime of austerity could have substantially reduced support for the Vote Leave campaign, which cited questionable figures of the fiscal cost of EU membership.
In short, the study found that a small reduction in cuts may have changed the vote result, while in contrast drastic changes in net immigration may not have made the slightest difference.
So not only did David Cameron agree to a referendum largely to appease the right of his party, but his austerity policies in government may have actively fuelled the 'Leave' campaign lines.