Immobility and support for Leave: Brexit was partly a reaction to change from the locally rooted
Katy Morris, Neil Lee, and Thomas Kemeny
LSE, January 5th, 2018
One of the most popular explanations of the Brexit vote to emerge in 2017 centred on the division between two apparently distinct British tribes: Somewheres and Anywheres. In his best-selling book The Road to Somewhere, David Goodhart draws on a longer tradition of scholarship on localism and cosmopolitanism to identify two economically and culturally dissimilar groups within British society: locally-oriented, geographically-rooted Somewheres who voted to leave the European Union, and mobile, internationally-oriented Anywheres who voted to remain within the EU.
The notion of geographical mobility (or the absence thereof) lies at the heart of this apparent social and political cleavage. In Goodhart’s framework, Somewheres are defined through their rootedness in place, with strong attachments to the specifics of their local area and identities that are formed through local associations. By contrast, Anywheres are defined partly by their mobility. Such mobility, which typically occurs through attending university and/or obtaining professional work some distance away from the place of birth, contributes to the development of what Goodhart describes as ‘portable “achieved identities”’ which tend to be internationally rather than locally oriented. Yet in this framework it is not clear whether mobility is a cause or a consequence of certain political values and dispositions.