The Northern powerhouse plans must include rural Brexit voters a think tank will today warn

Mark Sands
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The UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June (Source: Getty)

Efforts to boost the economy of the North must include rural areas that voted leave in last summer's referendum, an influential think tank will today warn.

Theresa May's government has stressed its commitment to regional devolution, and although doubts have emerged about her support for the North in particular, IPPR North has called on the government expand the project.

The Northern Powerhouse was a passion project for former chancellor George Osborne, focused on connections between Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool, but it risks leaving behind voters who backed Brexit, it will argue.

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IPPR North director Ed Cox will say that the concerns of Northern Leave voters must be listened to, rather than sneered at, but he will warn that without action to look beyond the big cities, supporting development in these areas could prove harder than ever.

Cox will say: “It has made me very angry that since the referendum, when it has become clear that the Northern economy could suffer significantly as a result of the Brexit decision, that some in the metropolitan media have presented Northerners as foolish or simple.”

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He will add: “Due to the composition of our economy, Northern regions are more than twice as dependent on EU trade as London. So in some respects, London is a great deal more insulated from the impact of Brexit than the North. Brexit is only going to exacerbate this decoupling process.”

“Add to this the loss of EU funding for our universities and most deprived places, add to this the impact of fewer migrants in an ageing population, add to this the impact on our rural economy and whatever kind of Brexit we end up with, it looks a pretty challenging place from here.”

It comes after Osborne launched a Northern Powerhouse think tank to protect his flagship policy in mid-September.

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