Universal Basic Income: Brexit-Voting Sheffield May Be England's First Test
The northern England city could be a key test area.
Mike Brown | Apr 1, 2019
Topic category: Income inequality

Sheffield, a 500,000-strong city that narrowly voted in favor of Brexit three years ago, could be the first city in England to conduct a trial for universal basic income.

Campaign group UBI Lab Sheffield last week sent a letter to all 84 of the northern English city’s councilors, asking them to put their support behind a local pilot program.

“We only wrote to the councilors on Friday, but we’ve had a couple of encouraging responses already,” says Sam Gregory, a member of the campaign. “The councilors that have written back are interested in what we’re doing and keen to find out more about our proposal.”

As the United Kingdom prepares to withdraw from the European Union, currently scheduled for May 22 if an exit deal is approved by British Parliament, or April 12 if not, UBI may represent an idea that could benefit those who voted “Leave,” as they felt “left behind ”by who they viewed as an elite, political class. The feeling among many pro-Brexit Britons is a “general sense of insecurity, pessimism, and marginalization,” write Matthew Goodwin and Oliver Heath, in this illuminating paper for the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“Britain is one of the most unequal countries in the world,” Gregory tells Inverse. “UBI could be one way to make our society a more equal place, and ensure that nobody is economically left out, and that nobody lives in poverty. That’s why we want to see the idea tested out here in Sheffield.”

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Learn about how England's exploring it's first potential experiment with UBI in Sheffield. Brought to you by The Fund for Humanity.
READ ABOUT The UBI Lab, Sheffield

People may have to re-skill several times over their working lives and yet education is increasingly costly. Meanwhile others are caught between the demands of a precarious labour market and the need to care for relatives.

As some people are worn down by the pressure to survive, others are driven to sacrifice their wellbeing for financial success.


Levels of economic inequality are at an all-time high. There is an increasing gap between the lives led by those at the top and those struggling. The current social contract is failing and although many want to do something about this they feel powerless to change things.

Technological advances and the rise of the gig economy continue to destabilise and disrupt traditional labour markets. Society and labour are more fluid, placing strain on communities.

All of these issues have an impact on our wellbeing, regardless of where we sit in the ‘foodchain’. A society that causes stress and resentment at every turn has negative impacts on health, violence, prejudice and isolation.

UBI Lab: Sheffield is a collaboration between multiple organizations and individuals, seeking to explore the potential of a universal basic income and the possibility of a pilot in the city.