Swansea votes for Brexit
Swansea is a beneficiary of EU funding but still voted to leave

The Red Dragon of Cadwaladr flies high above Swansea. It flutters above St Mary's Church in the city centre and hangs precariously outside pubs along nearby Wind Street.

It's hoisted proudly outside Swansea University's new Bay Campus next to another flag seen prominently across the city: the European one. The EU's stars appear all over Swansea, from road signs and street maps to a leisure centre and bus station.

Wales Stronger In said the EU ploughed £85m ($113m) into the city between 2007-13 and millions more have been earmarked up until 2020. Blue plaques outside glistening buildings like the Bay Campus, Waterfront Museum and 360 Watersports facility remind visitors of the role the European Investment Bank played in their existence.

The EU does not just build for Swansea. Approximately 50,000 members of Swansea's workforce were trained by apprenticeships and traineeships paid for by the EU and some of the city's most innovative companies – ones like Lumishore that makes LED lighting for boats – export almost half of their products to Europe. Research projects into potentially game-changing technology like wave power and a study into climate change have been launched with EU funding.

With low unemployment and high investment and ambition in the city, Swansea appeared to be on the up – then it voted to leave the EU.

IBTimes UK visited Swansea to gauge why it voted Leave in the EU referendum and what the consequences of the decision are.

David Cameron
Voters in Swansea said the city voted to leave the EU as a parting shot to David Cameron and the ConservativesGetty

'This was two fingers up at the Tories'

Wales's imminent exit was gathering pace when Swansea's returning officer read out the results of last week's EU referendum: Remain 58,307; Leave 61,936.

After all the investment, training it put in place, jobs the organisation created, directives keeping its picturesque bay clean, Swansea turned its back on the EU.

When IBTimes UK visited the city, Wales was basking in the glory of Gareth Bale and co advancing to the quarter finals of Euro 2016 (and would later celebrate as England slumped out of Europe, again).

But away from the football, Brexit loomed in the air.

Wales road sign
EU funding for Wales is likely to stop after 2020Getty

Brian Smith, 63, voted Remain and believes anti-government sentiment influenced the outcome. "This was two fingers up at the Tories. It was nothing to do with the EU, I think it was to give the Tories a kicking," he said as he walked past the EU-funded 360 Watersports facility.

"You hear of people backtracking and regretting what's happened and I think a lack of communication played a part in that.

"This vote does not help Wales, it doesn't help Swansea, it helps people like Vladimir Putin and Boris Johnson. I can't stand Boris." The retired engineer doesn't like Putin either, he added.

It was nothing to do with the EU, I think it was to give the Tories a kicking – Remain voter Brian Smith

Charlotte Thornton, 19, voted Leave, bucking a national trend that saw 75% of 18-24 olds vote Remain. She said the long-term gains were worth leaving the EU for.

"In the short term I think it will be hard but in the long term it will be better," she said walking along College Street. "It was important for me to take back powers over things like tax and immigration."

Swansea bus station
Swansea bus station benefited from almost £6m of EU moneyDelta Whisky

At the Quadrant bus station another Brexiter said immigration prompted him to vote Leave. Sporting a Swansea City (which has nine EU players on its books) football shirt, 52-year-old John Reeves said he had no regrets.

"I can't think of any reason to stay," he said inside the station that was given £5.8m by the EU. "The Remain campaign just didn't stack up to me and Leave made their points loud and clear."

"In the short term I think it will be hard but in the long term it will be better" – Brexiter Charlotte Thornton

Swansea's politicians cannot put their fingers on why voters chewed off the hand that feeds them.

"It's a bloody good question," says Byron Davies, Conservative MP for Gower, one of three seats in Swansea. "I have received hundreds and hundreds of emails in the last two days from people who are so annoyed by the result.

"The people on the street I spoke to in my constituency wanted to remain. They knew the benefits they got out of it. But I think the message did not get across.

"Why did Swansea vote Leave? It's a bloody good question" – Gower MP Byron Davies

"The Welsh government has claimed in desperation that it has given money for things and the EU never gets a mention. I feel for the young people, it is about their future."

Across the political divide, Swansea East's Labour MP Carloyn Harris said while the area has benefited from the EU, it "has never really identified with Europe beyond the notion that it is somehow a necessary evil".

"I confess that the overall result did surprise me," Harris added. "I anticipated that many people would deliver a protest vote by proxy – both upon the government and upon politics in general. I did not anticipate the scale of disaffection involved.

Swansea has never really identified with Europe beyond the notion that it is somehow a necessary evil – Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris

"Wales has always been an ambivalently Eurosceptic nation inasmuch as engagement with the European ideal has essentially been about how we qualify for handouts from Brussels and how they are distributed.

"It was not difficult to suggest to Welsh voters that they could do better – even if the people doing the telling had themselves been responsible for decimating the Welsh industrial landscape and strangling subsequent investment."