The authoritative source for independent research on UK-EU relations

22 Jan 2019

Politics and Society

Relationship with the EU

The UK is increasingly polarized by Brexit identities and they seem to have become stronger than party identities, a new academic report finds.

Only one in 16 people did not have a Brexit identity, while more than one in five said they had no party identity.

Sir John Curtice’s latest analysis of public opinion on a further referendum finds there has been no decisive shift in favour of another referendum.

The report, Brexit and public opinion 2019, by The UK in a Changing Europe, provides an authoritative, comprehensive and up-to-date guide to public opinion on each of the key issues around Brexit.

Brexit identities

  • The UK is increasingly polarized by Brexit identity: By mid-2018, only just over 6% of respondents to the British Election study did not identify with either Leave or Remain
  • New information about Brexit is interpreted in ways that reinforce pre-existing views.
  • Those seeing themselves predominately as Scottish or Irish are more inclined to support Remain while among those who describe themselves as English not British, there is strong support, not only, for Brexit but for a ‘hard’ Brexit.

No deal

  • Polls show just 4% think that no deal means a reversion to the status quo ante.

Only 8% think that ‘nothing important would really change’ if the UK left the EU without a deal

  • MPs are even more divided than the public on the impact of no deal: Only 2% of Leave backing MPs expect medical supply shortages if there is no deal and 14% of Leave voters; 75% of Remain supporting MPs expect shortages and 55% of Remain voters.

Immigration

  • The number of people who see immigration as one of the most important issues facing the country has more than halved from around 45% in the months leading up to the referendum to under 20% – the lowest level since 2001
  • Most people are ‘balancers’ when it comes to immigration – appreciating both its costs and benefits.

Party politics

  • More voters than ever describe Labour’s position as ‘unclear’ and ‘confused’

Labour’s Brexit position is under increasing pressure from members and supporters

  • More Conservative voters (46%) than Conservative members (38%) support Theresa May’s draft Brexit deal and a survey of Conservative MPs show them more aligned than ever with their eurosceptic membership.

Other findings

  • Analysis debunking the widespread assumption that Remain voters have higher levels of understanding of European Union issues than Leave voters
  • Polling showing the relative unity of voters in the EU27 on attitudes to the Brexit negotiations.

On the day the report is being released (Tuesday 22 January) The UK in a Changing Europe is holding a major conference on Brexit and public opinion 2019 which includes keynote speeches from Sir John Curtice and journalist Adam Boulton.

Professor Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe, said: “This report highlights the fundamental divisions Brexit has created, and in some cases exacerbated, in British society. New Brexit identities have emerged, which seem to be stronger than party identities. Divisions are also clear on national lines, as well as between MPs and their respective party members.”

The 23 chapter, 58 page report is written by 34 academics and is the most comprehensive and authoritative analysis of Brexit and public opinion to date. It analyses emerging Brexit identities and what voters want from Brexit.

Most of the academics who contributed to the report are part of The UK in a Changing Europe, including: John Curtice, Sara Hobolt, Rob Ford, Anand Menon and Alan Wager.

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