How does England's North West view Brexit?

A mural in Manchester

One month on from the Brexit vote, how divided is Britain? That's what we set off to discover as we travelled across the North West of England.

We began in Manchester, where 60% of people voted to remain in the EU. Like many cities across the UK, this one was in a minority in the region. Only Liverpool and Manchester voted remain round here.

In a bar with other Remainers in the heart of the city, student Edward May denied being part of a metropolitan elite: "The idea of 48% being a metropolitan elite [alongside] 68% of Scotland is ridiculous."

That criticism has been thrown at Remainers, but Leavers have also been stereotyped. It may have caused bad feeling, but here at least, they now seem determined to pull the country together.

Image caption Student Edward May says Remainers are not part of a metropolitan elite

Lewis Edwards, also a student, told me: "Getting angry and dismissing people who voted in a different way as racist or uneducated is the wrong way to go. In the long run, it will do far more damage to the country than Brexit ever could."

There are truths that have been acknowledged about the vote; that the majority of younger people voted In, that older voters opted for Out. But on this trip, of course, there were plenty who bucked that trend: like the young fashion intern in Manchester who told me she's been getting abuse from friends on Facebook for voting Out.

When it comes to whether Britain is divided, Olivia Prickett, fashion design intern at high couturier Zeynep Kartal, said: "I don't think we're broken. It's turbulent, but it's salvageable."

Fellow intern, Lauren Burton who, unlike Olivia voted Remain, said healing the country "depends on the Brexit strategy and what happens now and whether we can meet a mutual agreement that will work for everyone."

Despite the fact that older voters were more likely to have voted Remain, across the North West of England I found plenty who didn't - just as I found young Leave voters.

I travelled to Out-voting Ribble Valley (56% voted Leave here) and bumped into John Procter on his way to buy a paper. John ran the village shop in Chipping until he retired three years ago.

Image caption Christine Kitching (right) hopes that Theresa May will pull the UK through Brexit

This Remain voter summed up for me the change that's apparently occurred in the month since the referendum. The anger has dissipated, in true British style. "It's happening, we've got to get on with it," he told me.

All the people I met here who voted Out told me they are very happy with the decision. One man even sang for me of his happiness. What's interesting is that people from both sides now appear united on making the best of it.

Their attitudes to our new prime minister are revealing. Whatever their politics, there's a belief that she can re-unite the nation. Christine Kitching from Leagram Organic Cheese, a Remain voter, said: "I think Theresa May, of anybody, will pull us through this, hopefully."

David Briers, 43, whom I met at a soup kitchen in Blackpool, also spoke positively. The new prime minister appealed directly to people like David when she said she was determined to make us one nation after the referendum. David supported the out vote because "it will bring more jobs to Blackpool". Of Theresa May he said: "I think she might be pretty good."

Image caption David Briers believes that Brexit will bring more jobs to Blackpool

Blackpool is the antithesis of Manchester: 68% voted out - the highest figure in the North West. Five of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England are in Blackpool. Mark Broughton from Amazing Graze, the soup kitchen providing 15,000 meals a year to destitute people, offered some insights into perhaps one of the reasons Blackpool voted out.

"People feel isolated from the rest of the country, to a great degree. We have had EU money pumped into Blackpool, it's done the [sea] front up, but if you go one street back, it's absolute deprivation. People are disenfranchised and that's why they voted out."

But on this trip, it's clear there is no one reason for the Out vote, nor one clear narrative about what kind of people did so.

Cheesemaker Faye Kitching and her sister Theresa are both young voters, but were on opposing sides of the debate. They laughed, though, when they chatted to me. Yes, Theresa said, she had been angry and aghast at what happened. But as Faye said: "I'm not going to fall out with my sister over it."

It's clear that a month on, people are getting on with it. We won't know for years what Britain will be like, post-Brexit. But with the vote decided and some of the anger dissipating, many people's thoughts have already turned to other things.

Katie Razzall was reporting for a BBC Newsnight special - one month on from the referendum result. You can watch the programme on iPlayer (UK only)

Related Topics