A landmark new study has revealed a shift in the British public’s attitudes towards the EU. A majority of voters now yearn for a closer relationship with our continental neighbours. Seven years after the referendum result, Brexit has failed to deliver on many of its promises.
It’s 52% again – but Brexit regret rules the roost
The research, conducted by British Futures, exposes a malaise towards Brexit and the intense arguments that surround the topic. Both a majority of Leave (56%) and Conservative (61%) voters told the poll that they would welcome a ‘less heated debate’ on EU membership.
Only 12% of those surveyed were in favour of moving further away from agreements with the European Union, and 52% said that they would like the UK to strengthen its ties with the trading bloc. And, as we’ve been told for years, 52% is enough to represent the ‘will of the people’.
Voters now want to ‘move closer’ to EU
In a damning rebuke of the current government’s relationship with Europe, more than six in ten respondents believe that the UK needs to increase its cooperation with the EU on subjects counter-terrorism, trade, science, and even immigration.
Asked which relationship was most important for peace, stability and prosperity, almost half of respondents (48%) ranked the EU first, above the US (27%) and Commonwealth (25%) – and those behind the poll have noted a ‘changed landscape’ here at home.
Can Brexit be reversed? It’s a little complicated…
Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, believes that the door has been opened for the UK to ‘reset’ its relationship with Brussels:
According to Katwala, the findings show why there was ‘little fuss’ over Rishi Sunak increasing cooperation with the EU on the Windsor framework and the Horizon scheme for science, and it may even be possible for a new government to ‘try and go further’.
“Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves have talked about resetting the relationship with the EU. The public will give them space and permission for increasing pragmatic cooperation – though it remains unclear how much appetite there is for this in Brussels.“
“The challenge for those who want a future government to be bolder still – and reconsider more totemic issues free movement or a project to rejoin the EU itself – is that this would mean opening up more contested political arguments and reopening the Brexit debate.” | Sunder Katwala