While Brexit might to some seem a nightmare that the UK is struggling to awaken from, a new survey suggests that the angst is not being caused by the country having taken the leap but a desire for its faster implementation.
With both major UK political parties, Labour and the ruling Conservatives, committing to the ‘Get Brexit Done’ mantra – and ahead of a general election next year – Kelly Beaver, chief executive of research group Ipsos UK & Ireland, said rising public dissatisfaction in the UK over its withdrawal from the European Union was not necessarily about reopening the debate.
“Britons just want politicians to deliver effectively,” she told this year’s EU/UK Forum annual conference on June 12, adding that, despite more than two years having passed since the UK officially left the EU, the vast majority of Brits still regard the current position on Brexit as temporary, foreseeing substantial negotiations to come.
The Ipsos poll found the idea of Brexit being ‘done’ anytime soon was not widely held in the UK. Some 36 per cent of those questioned said there were still many important issues to finalise about the country’s future relationship with the EU, with “lots more negotiations over the next few years”.
A further 28 per cent believe the broad outlines of the UK’s future relationship with the bloc will not change much over the next few years, and that there are still important areas left to be decided upon.
Fewer than one in five (18 per cent) think Brexit is a done deal and will not be changed.
Beaver said: “Brexit is moving from an event to more of an ongoing process on which the performance of the government of the day can be judged.”
She said that as long as both the UK’s major political parties remained committed to pushing ahead with fully implementing Brexit, the issue would be a key battleground for next year’s general election, particularly if the cost-of-living crisis had faded by then and the economy had improved.
“This could be a real opportunity for either party in the UK to get better at communicating those opportunities,” she said.
The Ipsos survey found that, when asked whether they believed Brexit was settled and should not be reopened, responses were split evenly – with 43 per cent supporting a revisit and 44 per cent opposing such a move.
Beaver added: “The same proportions agree and disagree, meaning that perhaps those negativity consequences people see are not necessarily making the case for further upheaval; a second referendum or an election on the topic to rejoin.”
She pointed out that, even among the 55 per cent of the British population who believe Brexit is not progressing well, “some of those people think the government should be going further, faster and identifying those opportunities from Brexit”.
“Some of the negativity you see at the moment around Brexit could be dispelled if people believed the government was capitalising on the opportunities that it presents,” Beaver added.
This number is backed up by other findings that indicate 36 per cent of UK respondents felt Brexit represented opportunities that should be maximised.
In citing previous work from Ipsos, Beaver said: “We saw how the British population really started to think things were going much better at the point at which the [Covid] vaccine rollout happened in the pandemic.
“Although the differences were probably negligible between the EU and the UK around that, the impression given was the UK was using its freedoms to provide vaccines more quickly than the EU could provide, and that was a significant boost to the population’s view on how Brexit was going at that moment in time.”