Workers in greater London are the highest-paid by a significant margin, earning 56,000 euros in salaries and benefits on average in 2013, the latest year for which we have data. Workers immediately to the west of London — Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire — were the next-best paid in the UK, followed closely by North Eastern Scotland, which includes Aberdeen. (Remember this was before the oil price bust.)
Next come workers in some of the richer parts of Western Europe, including greater Vienna, Hamburg, southwestern France, Bavaria, and the Republic of Ireland. Mixed in among these prosperous EU regions are Cheshire, which houses well-off commuters to Liverpool and Manchester, and the West Midlands conurbation, centred around Birmingham.
Workers in the rest of the UK are paid significantly less, often less than workers in the better-off parts of Spain and Italy.
In Northern Ireland, employees are paid 24 per cent less than workers in the Republic, but about the same as workers in Leipzig, which is still dealing with the legacy of 45 years of East German communism. Workers in Kent and Essex, in the home counties, are also paid less than workers in former East Germany, whilst workers in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are paid less, in absolute terms, than workers in Sicily and southern Italy.
The European Union had planned to spend several billion euros investing in these backward areas of the UK in the 2014-2020 budget. Much of those funds won’t get disbursed if the UK ends up leaving. (And comparisons of this sort will no longer be possible if the UK pulls out of Eurostat.)
Will wealthy Londoners be willing to pick up the slack? Or will they decide they too should leave a sinking economy?