A poll suggests a majority of Britons now believe the UK was wrong to leave the European Union.
LONDON — Almost seven years and four prime ministers since the UK voted to leave the European Union, polls suggest public opinion has turned against Brexit.
In the latest YouGov poll released last week, 53% said the UK was wrong to leave compared to 32% who still believed it was the right choice. An Ipsos poll in January showed that 45% of people thought Brexit had made their daily lives worse, compared to just 11% who thought it had made their lives better.
A survey conducted by Focaldata and UnHerd at the end of last year, of around 10,000 people polled nationwide, 54% ‘strongly agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’ with the statement that ‘Britain has been wrong to leave the EU”.
Those who slightly or strongly disagreed made up 28%, and of the 632 in Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), only one had more people who disagreed with the statement than agreed – the coastal constituency of Boston’s East Midlands and Skegness, which also had the highest percentage of Brexit votes in 2016.
Britain’s economy is set to be the worst performer in the G-20 over the next two years, while a cost of living crisis and political unrest have added to the Conservative government’s headaches.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s ruling party now trails the main opposition Labor Party by more than 20 points in public polls ahead of the 2024 general election.
Anand Menon, UK director in a Change Europe initiative and professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London, told CNBC there were two key shifts in public attitudes to with regard to Brexit.
“The first is the growing number of people, including Leave voters, who are now saying they think the government mishandled Brexit, that is, they see it as a government failure. “, did he declare.
“The second thing is the growing number of Leave and other voters who are coming to view Brexit as having had negative economic impacts.”
This is confirmed in the last YouGov pollwho found that 68% of respondents thought the government had handled Brexit badly, compared to just 21% who thought the Tories were handling it well.
Sunak announced a new agreement with the European Union on Monday. who seeks to address the Northern Ireland Protocola controversial element of the existing Withdrawal Agreement which imposed controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea from Britain to Northern Ireland.
It remains to be seen whether this will tip the dial in favor of the Conservatives, but YouGov noted that those who now regret their vote to leave represent 7% of the voting public (excluding those who would not vote).
“Before the 2019 general election, this figure was around 4%. These changes may not seem massive, but given the stagnation of opinions on EU membership since the referendum, this change in preference could have an impact,” the pollster said.
“Those who voted Leave but no longer know if it was the right decision now represent an additional 4% of voters, making the overall group of Leavers who no longer think it was the right decision is about one voter out of nine (11%).”
Menon noted that ironically Brexit began to negatively affect the economy in early 2020 shortly after the UK left the EU, but the impact was clouded by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19.
Industries from agriculture and fishing to car manufacturing and pharmaceuticals have highlighted the difficulties experienced as a direct result of Brexit in recent years.
Now Menon has argued that the opposite is happening, as many of the UK’s current economic problems are not primarily due to Brexit, but shine a spotlight on its damaging effects.
“There is absolutely no doubt that Brexit is partly to blame for the rather bad economic numbers we are seeing coming out of the UK, particularly bad in a comparative context with other G-7 economies,” he said. he declared.
But longer-term factors played a role, and he suggested that a long stagnation in living standards, partly caused by austerity policies introduced by David Cameron’s government, contributed to the anger sparked in working communities in the Brexit vote.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a landslide election victory in 2019 with the promise to “get Brexit done”, touting a “ready-made” withdrawal agreement he had negotiated with the European Union. This campaign has seen hardline pro-Brexit Tory candidates topple a wave of former Labor “red wall” constituencies.
Menon pointed out that more than three years later, Brexit is being “redefined”, moving from a values-based cultural issue that united voters who might otherwise vehemently disagree on the economy, mainly to an economic question.
“It is problematic for the government because this Brexit coalition that Boris Johnson has put together is united on cultural issues, but very divided on the economy, so it cannot respond in an effective and coordinated way, and we let’s see within the Conservative Parliamentary Party,” he added. he explained.
“There are fights over things that most political parties of the past would basically be united on, which is the basics of economic strategy.”
Moreover, Brexit is no longer a concern for most voters. THE latest Ipsos issue index showed that the National Health Service was the issue of most concern to the public, with 42% of respondents mentioning it. The economy and inflation, which had dominated the series over the past year, were cited by 37% and 36% respectively.
In January 2019, the year of the last general election, Brexit/Europe was a key issue for 72% of votersthe greatest concern since September 1974. By October 2022, this rate had fallen to 6%.
Issues such as the recent UK crisis shortage of vegetables and rising food prices have been linked to Brexit by British political commentators and legislators of certain leanings. Menon suggested that Brexit supporters could try to establish the same causal link if the economy recovers in three years, if only in terms of how people feel on a daily basis.
“There is not necessarily a causal relationship between the two, in the same way that there is not necessarily a close causal relationship between the cost of living crisis and Brexit, but people will play on it. politically and then it will be interesting to see what happens to public opinion. It’s still very early days,” he said.