It has been nearly seven years and four prime ministers since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, yet opinion polls suggest that public sentiment has turned against Brexit.
The latest YouGov poll, published last week, revealed that an increasing number of people believe that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was wrong, according to a vote, as 53% of those surveyed believe that, compared to 32% who believe that the call to leave the union was correct. .
Ipsos polls in January indicated that 45% of the population believed that Britain’s exit from the European Union had made their daily lives worse, compared to only 11% who said it had improved their lives.
Another poll, conducted by Focaldata and UnHerd at the end of last year, found that, of nearly 10,000 respondents nationwide, 54% either “strongly agree” or “moderately agree” that “Britain was wrong.” to leave the European Union.
The number of those who were moderately or strongly opposed was 28% of those surveyed. Of the 632 in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), only one person was more opposed to the statement than approved – the East Midlands constituency of Boston and Skegness, which had the highest number of votes for Brexit in 2016. .
The UK economy is expected to be the worst performer in the G-20 over the next two years, after the cost of living and political turmoil exacerbated the crisis of the Conservative government.
Rishi Sunak steps up
The ruling party of incumbent Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has a lead over the main opposition Labor Party by more than 20 points in public opinion polls ahead of the general elections in 2024.
Anand Menon, professor of European politics and foreign affairs at Kings College London, told CNBC that there are two major shifts in public attitudes towards Brexit.
He explained that the first shift is the growing number of citizens who believe the government has handled Brexit badly, including the Leave voters, – that is, they see this as a failure of the government.
As for the second shift, it is the increasing number of voters to leave the European Union and see it as having negative economic effects, which was confirmed by the latest “YouGov” poll, which found that 68% of those surveyed believe that the government has dealt with Britain’s exit from the European Union badly, compared to 21%. Only % said conservatives handle it well.
Rishi Sunak on Monday announced a new deal with the European Union that seeks to address the Northern Ireland Protocol, a controversial part of the current withdrawal arrangements that imposed checks on goods moving across the Irish Sea from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
It remains to be seen if this will support the Conservatives at all, Menon said, but YouGov indicated that those who now regret voting to leave the EU represent 7% of the voting public (excluding those who will not vote).
No huge changes
Before the 2019 British general election, the poll said, that figure was around 4%. These changes may not seem huge, but given how stagnant views of EU membership have been since the referendum, this change in preference could be poignant.
He added those who voted to leave but are currently unsure whether it was the right decision now represent another 4% of voters, making the overall group of those who no longer believe it was the right decision around one in nine voters 11%.
Menon noted that it was ironic that Brexit began to negatively affect the economy in early 2020 shortly after the UK left the European Union, but that the impact was compounded by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Industries from agriculture and fishing to car manufacturing and pharmaceuticals have revealed the difficulties they have faced as a direct result of Brexit over the past few years.
Menon says the opposite will now happen, as many of the UK’s current economic problems are not primarily due to Brexit, but highlight once again its harmful effects.
“There is absolutely no doubt that Brexit is part of the reason for the poor figures for the UK economy, especially in the context of comparison with other G7 economies,” he said.
But long-term factors played a role, and it has been suggested that prolonged stagnation in living standards, caused in part by the austerity policies introduced by David Cameron’s government, contributed to the anger that erupted across working-class communities at the Brexit vote.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a landslide election victory in 2019 by promising to “finish Brexit,” referring to a ready-made withdrawal agreement he negotiated with the European Union.
Menon explained that, after more than three years, Brexit is being “redefined” from a cultural issue based on values uniting voters who might disagree strongly about the economy, to a primarily economic issue.
“This is problematic for the government because the Brexit coalition put in place by Boris Johnson has been united on cultural issues, but very divided on the economy, so it cannot respond in an efficient and coordinated way, and we see that in the parliamentary Conservative Party,” he said.
“There are battles over things that most political parties in the past were basically united on, including the basics of economic strategy,” he said.
Moreover, Brexit is no longer top of mind for most voters as the Ipsos latest issues index showed that the UK health service was the most important issue to the public, while the economy and inflation dominated the issues of concern to voters last year at 42%, of the respondent Their opinion while the economy and inflation, which dominated the index during the past year, by 37% and 36%, respectively.
In January 2019, the year the last general election was held, Brexit was a major issue for 72% of voters, the highest concern recorded since September 1974, and by October 2022 this had fallen to 6%.
Issues such as the recent shortage of vegetables in Britain and soaring food prices have been linked to Brexit by British political commentators and lawmakers of some affiliation.
Menon suggested that Brexiteers might try to draw the same causal link if the economy recovers in three years, if only in terms of how people feel day to day.
“There is not necessarily a causal relationship between the two, in the same way that there is not a necessary close causal relationship between the cost of living crisis and Brexit, but people will play it politically and it will be interesting, to see what happens to public opinion. But we are still in the days The first,” according to Menon.