What do the public want from the Brexit negotiations?

Anthony WellsHead of European Political and Social Research
February 02, 2018, 11:49 AM GMT+0

Only one in five Britons think the negotiations will make the difference between a good or bad Brexit

While the Brexit negotiations overshadow current politics at Westminster, not everyone thinks they are that important. We asked respondents how much difference they thought the negotiations would make to Brexit. Around a third of people don’t appear think they will make much difference at all – 18% are convinced that Brexit will be bad for Britain regardless, and nothing that can emerge from the negotiations will change that. At the opposite end of the scale, 17% think that Brexit is bound to be a success, and that nothing in the negotiations could make any difference to that.

Another third of respondents have firm views about whether Brexit is going to be good or bad for the country, but still think that the negotiations will have an impact - either it is important to get the right outcome in order to get all the benefits of Brexit (15%), or in order to mitigate the damage caused by Brexit (18%). That leaves only around one in five people who think that the negotiations will make the difference between an outcome that is good for Britain and an outcome that is bad for Britain.

Asked more specifically about their hopes and fears from the negotiation attitudes are, as you might expect, very different among Remainers and Leavers.

Among those people who voted Leave back in 2016 hopes and fears the things they want from the negotiations are very much in line with the messages and issues that dominated at the time of the referendum itself. Top is the ability for Britain to control immigration (45%), followed by freedom from EU rules and an end to any payment to the EU. For Brexiteers the message is a simple one, what they want from negotiations to take back control – control of our laws in general, and more specifically control of immigration and control of the money we currently give the EU.

For remain voters, the things they said they would most like to retain are freedom of movement (36%), tariff-free market access (27%) and continued co-operation on policing and security (19%). Notice that while opposition to Brexit is often talked about in terms of economic risk, of tariffs and market access, what Remains would most like is to retain the right to live and work in the EU. Perhaps that’s because it’s a direct benefit – most of us do not run or work in business that directly export to the EU - but then, most of us will never take up the opportunity to live elsewhere in the EU either. Another possibility is that it is more that it is about identity… the sense of losing an opportunity and freedom.

In terms of actual expectations, the vast majority of the public still expect a deal of some sort to be struck, mostly a compromise of some sort where Britain only gets some of the things we want. Whether people will be happy with that is a different matter.

Photo: Getty

See the full results here