British working class "tantrum" caused Brexit, claims Europe minister

Catherine Neilan
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Conservative Party Conference - Day 3
Alan Duncan went off the script at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs (Source: Getty)

Working class voters threw "a bit of a tantrum" about immigration, and swung the referendum vote towards leaving the EU, Europe minister Alan Duncan has claimed.

Speaking at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs yesterday, Remain-backing Duncan said he had been surprised by the result, which had come about because the Leave campaign - which was fronted by his boss Boris Johnson - had stirred up prejudice about immigration.

The Guardian reports that he said: “The manner in which the campaign was fought stirred up a lot of sentiment amongst people that are not habitual voters, particularly on the issue of immigration. You could feel in the last 10 days of the campaign, traditional blue-collar urban Labour opinion going viral for Leave.

"They were stirred up by an image of immigration, which made them angry and throw a bit of a tantrum. That was part of the chemistry that explains the result.”

His comments contradict findings of a study published this morning, which claims the vote was not brought about by general dissatisfaction with the country but rather "a cry of financial pain".

In response to a question about why Boston, Lincolnshire, had swung so heavily towards Remain despite being reliant on Polish migrant labour to support local agriculture, he explained: "That is one of the paradoxes. Lincolnshire folk said ‘ooh, they are coming to pinch our jobs’. Well, they would not do the jobs themselves anyway so it was a rather artificial anger."

Duncan said the Remain campaign was "badly conducted", without putting forward "a vision of optimism".

"Nor did it appear a cross-party endeavour and that made elements of voting opinion treat it as a verdict on the government of the day," he added.

Duncan also appeared to contradict the official government position that Brexit could pave the way for the UK to become a bigger global player, saying the priority was to turn potential disaster into opportunity.

And he hinted the UK might not seek an early free trade deal with the US, saying the first trade deal the UK needed was with partners in the EU.

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