Five years from the referendum vote and six months on from the United Kingdom’s final departure from the European Union, the implications for trade, tourism and foreign relations are still beginning to emerge. The latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, however, reveals that Brexit has so far had a minimal impact on European views of the UK. Polling the public across France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, we find that opinions on the UK, including its status as a viable holiday destination, remain largely unchanged, with London and the British Royal Family regarded as key drawcards.
In all four nations, people broadly feel that the UK’s departure from the European Union has not changed their view of the country. A majority (55%) of respondents in France say their view of the UK is unchanged post-Brexit, with strong pluralities in Germany (47%), Spain (47%) and Italy (45%) in agreement.
Significantly, however, in each nation, those who do say there has been a change in their view generally consider it to be a negative change. The proportions of respondents who say they now have a more negative view of the UK is 26% in Germany, 26% in Italy, and 19% in France. This trend is most pronounced in Spain, where as much as 37% of the public say they have a more negative view of the UK as a result of Brexit.
Europeans generally feel that Brexit has not affected how likely they are to travel to the United Kingdom. The most common response in each country—in France (50%), Germany (53%), Italy (49%) and Spain (47%)—is that people consider themselves ‘no more nor less likely than before’ Brexit to travel to the UK.
Notably, across all countries, respondents who do feel Brexit has affected their likelihood to travel to the UK generally say it has made them less likely to visit. In fact, 21% of German respondents, 23% of French respondents and 21% of Italian respondents now consider themselves less likely to travel to the UK. Again, the Spanish feel the most strongly on this question, with 35% of people saying they are now less likely to visit.
These trends continue when we look at whether European travellers feel welcome in a post-Brexit Britain. Around half of all respondents say they think travellers from their country will be ‘no more nor less welcome than before’ in the UK: this view is held by majorities in Germany (54%) and France (51%), and strong pluralities in Italy (49%) and Spain (49%).
Again, those who do feel there will be a change in how welcoming the UK is to European travellers tend to feel it will be a negative change. This sentiment is once again strongest in Spain, where nearly a third (31%) of respondents feel Spanish travellers will be less welcome in the UK as a result of Brexit.
Nevertheless, there remain many attractions drawing European travellers to the UK, with London topping the list of biggest tourist attractions. Majorities in Germany (63%), France (65%), Italy (71%), and Spain (68%) say London is the biggest attraction for tourists.
Interestingly, many Europeans consider the British monarchy to be a major attraction. The Royal Family is the third-most selected UK attraction by the German public (32%) and the second-most selected in France (42%) and Italy (44%). Yet, in Spain, where 50% of people name museums and theatres as the biggest attraction, only 16% extend the same honour to the Royal Family.
Furthermore, Europeans are remarkably unified in their views on what makes the UK an unattractive destination for visitors. When asked to name the most negative thing about the UK for tourists, most Europeans cite the cost and the climate.
Majorities in Italy (53%) and Spain (60%) say that the UK being ‘too expensive’ is the most negative thing for tourists, likely reflecting the comparatively lower cost of living in these countries. Half (50%) of Germans agree with this view, along with 40% of those surveyed in France. Among the French, the most popular response to this question is the ‘bad weather’ (45%), a response which is also selected by 43% of Germans, 52% of Italians, and 55% of Spaniards. The third most-selected option among German (18%) and Italian respondents (23%) is that the UK is ‘too crowded,’ whereas the French (32%) and Spanish (25%) both identify the ‘food and drink’ as a major negative aspect of UK travel.