British voters have “limited enthusiasm” for the post-Brexit deal Boris Johnson’s government brokered with the EU last year, with just one in five describing it as a “good” deal, a survey found.
However, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the 2016 EU referendum on Wednesday, the poll also found that years of divisive political debate had changed little mind – with four in five people voting saying they would always vote the same way.
Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, who led the research for the polling group What the UK thinks and the National Center for Social Research (NatCen), said the results were “far from a resounding endorsement” of the Brexit trade deal.
“Five years later, it’s hard to argue that the Brexit referendum was a flawless success,” Curtice wrote, noting Leavers’ limited enthusiasm for the Brexit deal. At the same time, he added, the result had reconciled few voters from the rest to the Brexit project.
The generally lukewarm response to the trade deal brokered by Lord David Frost last year revealed that even among Leave voters, only one in three felt it was a ‘good’ deal, although this figure reflects the fact that some Leave voters would have preferred to have left the EU on even harsher conditions, without any agreement.
The survey was carried out just weeks after the UK left the EU’s single market on January 1 and is the latest in a series of polls conducted by What UK Think and NatCen since 2016.
The UK-EU trade and cooperation agreement did not trigger the major disruptions expected for UK ports in January, but did drop UK exports to the EU sharply in some sectors such as agrifood, where exports fell by nearly 50%. percent in the first quarter of this year compared to 2019 and 2020.
Other broader impacts, particularly on professional services and travel, have to some extent been masked by Covid-19, which has sharply reduced leisure and business travel to Europe this year.
Despite reluctance over the post-Brexit deal, the poll continued to justify Johnson’s decision to keep his 2019 election pledge to ‘get Brexit done’, dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of Brexit UK rising from a peak of 88% in the fall. 2019 during the prolonged parliamentary stalemate, at around 50% today.
“The confidence that Leave voters had in the UK government was badly shaken when it emerged that Brexit might not happen, but it has now been largely restored,” Curtice wrote.
At the same time, the survey found that three in four voters now expect a drop in immigration or an improvement in the economy – two key Brexit measures – indicating that for many voters, “the Brexit detail matters less than the principle “.
As to whether a replay of the 2016 referendum today would yield a different result, the poll found it likely would not.
While a clear majority of those who did not vote in 2016 say they would now vote to join the EU, they are likely to be overturned by the number of voters remaining who – although they still wanted to that the UK remained a member of the EU – would not vote now due to the further upheaval of re-membership.
“We believe that a current referendum on ‘join’ versus ‘stay out’ may well produce a slim majority (52%) in favor of staying out,” Curtice said.
Looking to the future, Curtice said it was not clear whether public opinion would shift if future difficulties with the UK-EU ATT arose once the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted within months. come.
Much would depend on whether the opposition Labor Party, which has so far been reluctant to campaign on Brexit issues for fear of alienating Leave voters in target constituencies, was ready. to make Brexit a problem in the future.
“The proof of the Brexit pudding will be in the meal, and the main course has been delayed by the pandemic,” Curtice told the FT.
“To make a difference, the government’s record will have to be criticized and it will depend on the extent to which the opposition is prepared to tackle what they see as the operational failures of Brexit.”