MPs told to prioritise improving living standards to heal divides after Brexit
'Brexit has monopolised political and policy debate, leaving little room for domestic issues,' researchers claim
MPs should prioritise improving living standards for low-income people and restoring pride to overlooked towns in Britain to heal divides post-Brexit, a new report urges.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) in collaboration with a UK in a Changing Europe said that minimum wage hikes and increases to high-quality apprenticeships are necessary for politicians to win back public support in a divided era.
It suggests political parties could reap the "electoral dividends" through greater spending on domestic priorities.
In their report – a result of detailed conversations with 190 people on low incomes in towns and cities across the UK – the authors set out what voters want to see after Brexit.
The recommendations are based on research suggesting that voters' priorities are long-standing domestic problems despite Brexit having "monopolised" political debate.
In order to bridge the divide between Remain and Leave voters, they said: "The focus should on rebalancing the economy, making sure work pays, supporting local economies and high street so they can be vibrant and ensuring people have the skills to make the most of opportunities in their area."
JRF executive director Claire Ainsley said: "People on low incomes across Britain are frustrated with politicians who fail to act on their concerns. Voters across Britain have told us that 'politics as usual' will simply not cut it any more.
"Low-income voters are turning out to vote in greater numbers and are the most likely group to switch their vote. Any party wishing to govern should take their concerns seriously."
The JRF recommends the first step is for the government to deliver the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund and ensure it at least matches the 2.4 billion euros (£2.2 billion) in spending that will be lost from the EU's structural funds.
Good jobs that provide security are a priority for voters, while employers should beat politicians' pace by paying real living wages before legislation is enacted, the charity said.
"At a time when the country is so profoundly divided over Brexit, this is the perfect moment to find common ground and push forward an agenda that can unite the country," the research concludes.
"People on low incomes told us what this looks like: improving living standards and restoring pride to towns and cities which have been overlooked for too long."
"Brexit has monopolised political and policy debate, leaving little room for domestic issues. Too much emphasis has been placed on how to appeal to Leave or Remain voters as separate groups, and far too little on how to bridge that divide."