Brexit: More Britons now say UK was wrong to quit the EU

·4-min read
Brexit: More Britons now say UK was wrong to quit the EU

A growing number of Britons say the UK was wrong to Brexit, according to a Standard analysis of more than 200 polls.

It showed that an average of just under 49 per cent of adults believe it was a mistake, compared to just over 38 per cent who still say it was the right decision, while 13 per cent “don’t know”, according to 211 surveys carried out this year.

The average annual gap between those who believe it was “wrong” to vote to Leave compared to “right” has risen into double digits for the first time in 2022, to 10.6 percentage points.

This is almost double the 5.5 percentage point gap of last year, and far higher than 6.4 percentage points in 2020 and just under seven points in 2019, according to the analysis of 211 polls which asked whether in hindsight people thought Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the EU.

The latest figures also compare to the 52 to 48 Brexit referendum result in 2016 for Britain to quit the European Union.

The findings came as the Government appears to be trying to avoid making any public assessment of the economic impact of Brexit so far since the country voted to Leave six years ago.

Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg recently refused to say if the Government had carried out any such studies and if so what they had revealed, and suggested other assessments were “bilge”.

But Labour MP Hilary Benn, co-convenor of the UK Trade and Business Commission, said: “It’s (Brexit) made life more difficult for British businesses trying to sell to Europe because it’s dumped a whole lot of cost, bureaucracy and red tape onto them.

“But a decision was made and the question now is how do we build a new and different relationship with our European neighbours.”

Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat business spokeswoman and MP for Richmond, said: “The Government’s botched trade deals have drowned our businesses in red tape and increased costs for families.

“Ministers should be working flat out to get our economy moving again.”

Britain’s former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost has admitted quitting the EU may have hit the UK’s goods exports by five per cent but he believes that the country’s “performance is continuing to improve, and this figure may well change further as the figures normalise”.

He also doubts that quitting the EU will have any “measurable impact on our GDP one way or another”.

Patrick English, associate director of political and social research at YouGov, stressed that there had not been any dramatic shift in the country’s view on Brexit over the years.

He said: “Between YouGov’s first polling on this issue and the figures today, there has been only around a 6-point increase in the percentage of people who think Brexit was the ‘wrong’ decision, and a slightly larger, but still small, decrease in the percentage of people who think it was ‘right’.”

He added: “A large proportion of the widening in the wrong vs right gap can be attributed to generational replacement alone, with Brexit supporters far likely to be older and those who supported Remain much younger.

“The relative stability of attitudes reflects how deep the Brexit divide entrenched itself within British politics and public opinion, evolving to become much more of a political identity than a policy preference.”

The Treasury has been largely silent on the impact of Brexit and the Bank of England has been accused of being reluctant to talk about it to avoid upsetting the Government.

But a recent report by The Resolution Foundation, in collaboration with the London School of Economics, warned that Brexit will hit workers’ real wages by around 470-a-year, compared to what it would have been, and damage Britain’s competitiveness.

Another report, by the Centre for European Reform, estimated that the UK was being hit with a £31 billion blow to GDP from Brexit in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Meanwhile, the Government’s bid to effectively tear up parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol cleared its first Commons hurdle, with no Tory MPs voting against it despite warnings that the plans are illegal.

MPs voted 295 to 221, majority 74, to give the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill a Second Reading, which clears the way for it to undergo detailed scrutiny in the coming weeks.

Voting lists showed that dozens of Conservative MPs abstained, joining former Prime Minister Theresa May, who made clear she would not support the legislation as she warned it would “diminish” the UK’s global standing and delivered a withering assessment of its legality and impact.

Following the result, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted the Bill, which gives ministers powers to override parts of the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, “provides practical solutions to problems caused by the Protocol and protects the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement”.

“While a negotiated outcome remains our preference - the EU must accept changes to the Protocol itself,” she added.