In the wake of the Brexit vote, a particular trope has emerged amongst some journalists and members of the public on social media: that the vote to leave the EU was a “bloody nose” to Westminster and London. I have no doubt that many voters meant it this way – the reality of what will happen now is very different, however.
Let us start with Westminster. Yes, both political parties are in meltdown. Yes, political careers have been destroyed by the vote to leave. But on the flipside, many more careers in Westminster will flourish now. Particularly as – and this has been barely discussed in the mass of post-Leave vote speculation – Westminster is about to get a lot more powerful, not less. We are stripping away EU law and replacing it with new British law. Who will benefit? The very experts who were derided by the Leave campaign, suddenly necessary on a scale never previously seen.
I’ve read a lot of guff about decentralising power as a result of Brexit as well. I’m sorry, but this idea is actually laughable: in the short term at least, the UK is about to become even more centralised and Westminster more powerful as the government tries to navigate the storm. Expect the limited devolution that had begun in England to be halted.
Next, let’s talk about London in general. Whatever is negotiated now as a post-Brexit settlement will be very London focused, even though no one will talk about it that way. The city is the engine of the British economy and cannot afford to falter. We either end up with freedom of movement remaining in place, or we move to a points system which will be easy for employers, mostly London based, to use. So the idea that London is about to get stuffed while the provinces prosper is a massive fantasy. I predict that England as a whole will get poorer over the next five years, while London continues to economically grow. In other words, the poor parts of England will be getting poorer as a result of all of this, as London sucks in even more wealth and power.
You would think that something that inner London voted overwhelmingly for while the rest of England voted overwhelmingly the other way would mean that the vote for Leave would be bad for London and good for the rest of England. Sadly, the exact opposite will almost certainly turn out to be true. There are ways to try and deal with regional economic inequality in England – voting for Brexit was amongst the worst ideas in this regard conceivable.