Brexit poll: Two-thirds of Britons now support future referendum on rejoining the EU

Exclusive: Results suggest Leave voters disillusioned with the ‘taking back of control they were promised’

Kate Devlin
Political Editor
Sunday 01 January 2023 08:30 GMT
Jeremy Hunt rejects OBR forecast for 4% GDP loss from Brexit

Two years after the UK transitioned out of the European Union nearly two-thirds of Britons now support a referendum on rejoining.

A Savanta survey for The Independent also shows that the number of people who oppose another vote has fallen, with less than a quarter of voters now against a referendum.

The UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020, but the “transition period” meant it observed Brussels laws and remained in the single market until 31 December 2020.

Since then Britons believe the economy, the UK’s global influence and the ability to control our own borders have all got worse, the survey also shows.

This appears to have contributed to a boost in the numbers who want a future referendum on membership.

The number who say there should be another vote is now 65 per cent, up from 55 per cent at the same point last year, although they are split over the timing.

The most popular options were now, at 22 per cent, and within the next 5 years, 24 per cent, followed by within 6-10 years, 11 per cent. Just 4 per cent thought another vote should be in more than 20 years, while those who said there should never be a second referendum have fallen from 32 to 24 per cent.

Chris Hopkins, from Savanta, said it could be that many overestimated the potential benefits of Brexit.

“It’s hard to imagine being in the EU would solve any of the country’s current economic issues,” he said., “but perceptions matter.”

Ha added that the perception Brexit had made control of our own borders harder was “not the taking back of control that all those who voted Leave were promised”.

‘Getting Brexit done’ was Boris Johnson’s major project

The survey also found 54 per cent now say Brexit was the wrong decision, up from 46 per cent last year, on the first anniversary of Britain’s exit.

The poll not only suggests that the majority of voters now think leaving the EU has made many things worse, but the percentage who think so has increased in many areas in the last year.

A total of 56 per cent now think leaving the EU has made the economy worse, up from 44 per cent.

Half of Britons think it has made the UK’s ability to control its own borders – a key Brexiteer pledge – worse, up from 43 per cent to 50 per cent.

And the proportion who think it has worsened Britain’s global influence is also now 50 per cent, up from 39 per cent.

The consequences of leaving the EU are starting to sink in for many voters

The findings come amid a renewed focus on the effects of Brexit.

Last week the British Chambers of Commerce called on the government to look again at how trade with Europe can be improved, two years on from the deal agreed by former prime minister Boris Johnson.

Earlier this month researchers at the London School of Economics (LSE) also found that Brexit had added £210 to the average household food bill in the two years to the end of 2021, because of extra red tape.

There are signs even some Brexiteers are becoming frustrated. Former minister George Eustice recently hit the headlines when he criticised a post-Brexit trade deal with Australia, saying it “gave away far too much for far too little in return”.

On the results of the latest poll, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran said: “It’s no wonder that the British public feel this way, when the Conservatives have gone out of their way to make it harder for smaller businesses to trade with our neighbours, for farmers to sell their produce overseas, and for scientists to cooperate with their counterparts.

"The Conservative government’s decision to erect barriers to trade with our largest trading partner is the last thing we need, not least in this cost of living crisis.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are taking full advantage of the many benefits of Brexit, and are restoring the UK’s status as a sovereign, independent country that determines its own future.

“We have taken back control of our borders, restored domestic control over our law-making and axed numerous pieces of bureaucratic red tape, saving businesses and consumers money across the country.”

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