We need a spatial strategy to heal the pain behind Brexit

Tom Brooksbank

Britain’s failure to take regional planning seriously is a dereliction of duty that has led to our polarised economy, argues Tom Brooksbank

The UK2070 Commission was set up last autumn to study the crisis of regional inequality in the UK and how this will play out over the next 50 years. Its recently published report makes for sobering reading. It reveals that the UK is home to both the richest region in northern Europe – London – as well as six of the 10 poorest regions, making it the most spatially imbalanced economy in Europe.

This confirms what someone travelling from London to, say, the non-metropolitan Midlands or north-east might have observed long before the 2016 referendum: that the centre (London) and periphery (regions) of the United Kingdom are “decoupling”.

Growth, productivity and investment have surged in the centre while flatlining elsewhere and the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum, in which the centre voted to remain and the periphery voted to leave, reveals this dynamic is metastasizing across Britain’s political landscape. Centre vs periphery: the cause is spatial but the effect is political.

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