The real drivers for Brexit were ideology and British exceptionalism.
If those arguing for Brexit weren’t primarily driven by their own views on immigration, what was driving them? It’s a curious mixture of two different but overlapping world views. There are exceptions to every generalisation, of course, but the hard core of Brexiteers is to be found in the right wing of the Tory Party, and their soulmates in UKIP. Their mindset is one in which ‘the market’ should determine everything, and any regulation or control which prevents companies from making money is inherently bad. They really do believe in an economic free-for-all to the greatest extent possible, and accept that there will be winners and losers as a result (although, coincidentally I'm sure, they and their circles will mostly be winners).
It’s a short term and essentially local view of what’s ‘best’, and not conducive to global action on issues such as climate change, but then, many of them don’t accept the science of that anyway. They have an instinctive hostility to rules and regulations on what capital can or can’t do, blame the EU for much of that (overlooking the tiny little fact that it is common regulation which makes the single market operate at all), and believe passionately that freed from all controls, capitalism will deliver ever-increasing wealth from continued exponential growth.
The second driver is British (or perhaps it might be more accurate to say ‘English’ in this context) exceptionalism. It is axiomatic to them that:
· Westminster is the ‘mother of parliaments’ (although the term doesn’t actually mean quite what they think it means),
· the BBC is the ‘best broadcaster in the world’ (a statement for which they have no evidence other than their own opinion),
· the UK isn’t really part of Europe (as in ‘we’ve always had a global perspective rather than a European one, even if we’ve had to intervene to sort the Europeans out a few times’),
· we ‘punch above our weight’ (which they see as a good thing, even if others see it as wanting to be the school bully),
· we’ve given the world our language and culture (and what a bunch of ingrates they are), and
· we really are unique and very special.
The key thing that we have to recognise about this twin-pronged mindset is that it’s all axiomatic to them; mere evidence-based arguments are never going to shift people who have their own 'alternative facts' from the course on which they have set themselves and us. Yet trying to use evidence to persuade them to change direction is the approach which most are adopting in response. It’s an approach doomed to failure.