Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled the Windsor Framework, an agreement with the European Union designed to fix outstanding trade issues in Northern Ireland that were created by the mechanics of the original Brexit agreement signed in January 2020. Nearly seven years after Britons voted to leave the European Union, the debate over Britain’s departure thus appears to be entering a new phase, one in which the specific details of Brexit itself appear to have at last been sorted.
In the face of Sunak’s recent diplomatic success, Keir Starmer has stayed relatively quiet. We at Redfield & Wilton Strategies have thus found that British voters are largely unsure about where he stands on the issue of Brexit. In fact, given his previously prominent stand in favour of a second referendum while Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, a plurality of 37% of voters incorrectly guess that his party stands for re-joining the European Union. Only 16% can identify the Labour Party’s actual objective: to stay out.
Keir Starmer has promised, repeatedly, that the Labour Party intends to “make Brexit work.” On Labour’s website, he has outlined a five-point plan on Brexit, highlighting “opportunities” such as cutting VAT on energy bills.
Yet, when voters are asked whom they most associate with this policy position, three times more voters (38%) identify the policy with Rishi Sunak rather than with Keir Starmer (13%), while a further 15% identify the policy with both party leaders equally. Another 18% identify the policy with neither party leader, and 17% say they do not know, indicating the extent to which Starmer’s positioning has hardly registered with the public.
Furthermore, voters seem unsure as to whether Starmer is genuine about his position on Brexit. A plurality (37%) of Britons say they don’t know, while 33% say yes, he appears genuine, only slightly more than the 30% who say, no, he does not.
However, being known for wanting to make Brexit work may not be Starmer’s intended goal as much as merely avoiding public anger and moving Labour onto other issues beyond Brexit.
Overall, voters are largely in favour of the Labour Party’s new position. 46% say they support and just 11% say they oppose Starmer’s promise to make Brexit work. The relatively small percentages of those who say they oppose this position is significant.
Voters are almost evenly divided on whether the slogan implies a positive, negative, or neutral view of Brexit. 30% say the slogan has a positive view of Brexit, 25% say a negative view, and 30% say a neutral one. Altogether, then, the phrase appears to be usefully ambiguous. It will neither excite nor, more importantly, agitate.
On other issues, voters’ lack of awareness regarding Keir Starmer’s position could hinder support for Labour. On the question of Britain’s membership or non-membership of the EU and its Single Market, however, this ignorance on the part of the voter does not seem to matter that much.
Britons are tired of the topic. Just presently 14% cite Britain Leaving the EU as one of the key issues that will determine how they will vote at the next election, well below other key issues such as the economy (62%), the NHS (57%), immigration (28%), and education (23%).
In an era of Brexit fatigue, therefore, Starmer’s safe positioning on this topic steers his party clear of potential pitfalls—even if the public does not seem all that aware of this position.