Five years on from the 2016 EU Referendum, Redfield & Wilton Strategies has teamed up with UK in a Changing Europe to conduct research on the British public’s attitudes towards Brexit. This new tracker poll covers a variety of topics related to the post-Brexit landscape, the initial results of which UK in a Changing Europe has analysed in articles entitled, ‘What do the British electorate think of Brexit now?,’ ‘Voters still divided over Brexit—but back UK Government in battles with Brussels,’ and ‘COVID-19 and Brexit: evaluations of impact.’
The research also includes how Britons would vote if a referendum on re-joining the European Union were to take place tomorrow: 53% say they would vote for the UK to stay out of the EU, and 47% say they would vote for the UK to join the EU, after weighting by likelihood to vote and excluding undecided respondents.
Among respondents who voted ‘Leave’ in the 2016 EU Referendum, 89% say they would vote to remain outside of the EU and 11% say they would vote to re-join. Conversely, 79% of ‘Remain’ voters indicate they would vote to join the EU, while a notable 21% would instead vote for the UK to stay out.
When those who say they don’t know how they would vote in such a referendum are included, 50% of respondents would vote for the UK to stay out of the EU, 44% would vote for the UK to join the EU, and 6% are unsure.
Although a large proportion of Britons express a desire to re-enter the European Union, most respondents agree that the prospect is not likely in the near future: 56% think it is unlikely that the UK will apply to re-join the EU in the next ten years, including 71% of ‘Leave’ voters and 47%, a plurality, of ‘Remain’ voters. A fifth (21%) of Britons alternatively believe it is likely that the UK will seek to re-join, a position that is more prominent among those who voted ‘Remain’ (25%) rather than ‘Leave’ (14%) in 2016.
Further, even if the UK were to apply to become a member of the European Union again, the British public is divided on whether the EU would accept the application. 37% find it unlikely and 31% find it likely that the EU would accept the UK’s application to re-join, with both ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ voters expressing similar response patterns.
In the British public’s eyes, a referendum to re-join the European Union may seem particularly unlikely because most political parties are not campaigning for it. When asked about the parties’ current policy objectives regarding the UK’s relationship with the EU, 29% see the Conservative Party’s objective as maintaining the status quo and 25% see it is to seek a more distant relationship.
A fifth or fewer believe the Labour Party (16%), Liberal Democratic Party (20%), Green Party (16%), and Reform UK (7%) aim to re-gain EU membership. In fact, the Scottish National Party is the only political party that a plurality (32%) believes to have re-joining the EU as its policy objective. Thus, beyond the SNP, Britons perceive there to be little appetite for another referendum among their political parties.
The first results of our Brexit tracker poll reveal that a campaign to re-join the European Union is currently unlikely to succeed—and even if it were to succeed, respondents are unconvinced that the EU would embrace the UK’s return with open arms.
As we look to the future, our research in collaboration with UK in a Changing Europe will continue to track how attitudes towards these and other Brexit-related topics evolve over time.