And now, with the global markets shaken and Britons trying to move to Canada, it’s hard not to ask, what if this hadn’t been a referendum? What if we didn’t leave these incredibly complex decisions to the people?
It turns out that there's some evidence that many people might not have known exactly what they were doing. Courtesy of Google, we know many Britons were searching for more information about what the E.U. is … hours after voting concluded. Meanwhile, on Twitter, a hashtag circulated, #regrexit, highlighting how some people in Britain decided they had made a mistake voting to leave.
But perhaps the best evidence that people who voted for Brexit will come to regret it — if they haven't already — came via this report from the Center for European Reform, a think tank that favored Britain remaining in the E.U. By leaving, Britain is potentially also leaving its network of trade agreements within the region, pending negotiations. For areas that depend on exports for their economic sustenance, a less favorable trade agreements could deal a serious blow.
Polling showed the areas that had the most to lose and the least to gain from the Brexit are precisely those where the referendum saw the most support. In other words, the places — the most export-heavy regions —most hurt by the economic disruptions caused by Brexit could be the places that pushed hardest for it, as this scatter plot shows.
The biggest economic effect is felt by regions whose economies depend on industries such as manufacturing, mining, agriculture and utilities. These sectors participate in a lot of trade within the E.U. market, as opposed to domestically or globally. London, on the other hand, feels the smallest effect of the Brexit. As one of the world's primary financial centers, most of its trade occurs globally, outside of the E.U., so new trade restrictions within Europe would not deal the economy a large blow.
But beyond economics, these very regions don’t have much to gain from the Brexit. One of the primary drivers of the campaign was an attempt to control the influx of refugees from the Middle East and Eastern Europe. And yet, the areas with the most immigrants, like London, tend to be much more in favor of remaining in the E.U., according to the center's report.