Britons support rejoining the single market, even if it means free movement

Fintan SmithPolitical Research Executive
November 29, 2023, 11:09 AM GMT+0

Seven in ten Britons support a closer relationship with the EU than we have now

As we approach the fourth anniversary of Brexit, 52% of Britons now believe that the UK leaving the EU was the wrong decision. The Labour party – likely to form the next government – have so far resisted calls to move towards rejoining the single market, despite pressure from some businesses who say this could improve the situation.

Joining the single market would allow for the free movement of goods and services between the UK, the EU and other non-EU countries who are member of the single market, like Norway and Lichtenstein. However, this would also likely mean agreeing to the free movement of people between the UK and the EU – a frightening prospect for Keir Starmer’s Labour given the role of immigration in driving the Leave vote. But is this fear justified?

Perhaps not. New YouGov data indicates that more Britons are in fact supportive of joining the single market, even under this condition, than in opposition. Just short of six in ten Britons (57%) would support the UK joining the single market, even if this meant a return to free movement, with only around one in five (22%) opposed.

Leave voters backing Labour are keener on joining the single market

As could be expected, Remain voters are more likely to be supportive of joining the single market than Leave voters. More than eight in ten Remain voters (83%) would support doing so, compared to around a third (35%) of Leave voters, who tend to be opposed (45%).

YouGov’s latest Westminster voting intention poll has about 18% of Leave voters backing Labour if there were an election tomorrow, with 29% supporting the Conservatives and 13% Reform UK.

Our data shows that Labour committing to a return to the single market might not prove as alienating as Starmer may fear. Of Leavers who would back Labour in an election tomorrow, 53% would support the UK joining the single market, even if this meant allowing the free movement of people, with three in ten opposed (31%).

By contrast, Leave voters intending to back the Conservatives generally oppose a return to the single market (54%), although a minority of 29% support doing so.

Britons want closer ties with the EU

Whilst Labour has so far ruled out rejoining the single market, Starmer has asserted his intention to build closer ties with the EU, pledging to try and establish closer trading ties with if Labour win at the next election.

In general, Britons favour building closer ties with the EU. Seven in ten Britons (72%) want to see the UK have closer ties with the EU in some form or another, including a majority of both Remain (90%) and Leave (64%) voters. By contrast, one in five (19%) favour the UK maintaining the status quo or further reducing ties with the EU.

The most popular proposals for the UK’s future relationship with the EU are rejoining the European Union (31%) and increasing the trading relationship with the EU without joining the single market (30%). A further one in nine (11%) want to join the single market, but not the EU.

Of the options offered, most Remain voters favour joining the EU (56%), while those who voted Leave are instead generally in favour of increasing the amount of trade we do with the EU without joining the single market (46%).

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