The Brexit transition period ends on December 31, and the Government has frequently ruled out extending the deadline further. The UK has said it is “keen and committed” to reach a trade deal and Angela Merkel has insisted that a deal is “in everyone’s interests” but warned that the 27 EU members countries “don’t need a deal at any price.” This week, a senior UK government source claimed that the prospect of a breakthrough in post-Brexit trade negotiations is “receding” yet is “still possible in the next few days.” In a crucial week for Brexit negotiations, Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest GB wide polling examined attitudes to Brexit.
With “deal or no deal” outcomes both possible in the next few days, a majority (50%) of the British public disagrees that Brexit is done and is behind us, while less than a fifth agree (21%). Almost a quarter (24%) neither agree nor disagree that Brexit is done, reflecting the complex current status of the UK––which has essentially the same relationship with the EU as a member state until the end of the transition period despite technically leaving the bloc on January 31. Interestingly, despite Brexit trade negotiations remaining in the balance, the proportion of the public who disagree that Brexit is done and is behind us has decreased by 8 points since 15 September, when it stood at 58%.
Interestingly, younger adults aged between 18-44 years old are much more likely (27-31%) to say that Brexit is done and behind us than respondents aged 45 or older (13% to 20%). Therefore, age groups who were more likely to vote Leave in the 2016 Brexit referendum are less likely to consider that Brexit is done and behind us. Meanwhile, Conservative voters (26%) were marginally more likely than Labour voters (22%) to consider Brexit done and behind us. A majority (51%) of Labour voters disagree that Brexit is done and is behind us.
Furthermore, almost half (49%) of all respondents agree that Brexit has been done in name only. Only a quarter (25%) disagree with this statement. Curiously, agreement that Brexit has been done in name only is much lower than it was in mid-September, when over two thirds (67%) held this view.
Currently, a strong plurality or majority (47% to 53%) of all age groups believe Brexit has only been completed in name, while a fifth or less (10% to 20%) disagree. Those who supported the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats at the last General Election are especially likely (55%) to agree that Brexit has been done in name only, yet a clear plurality (46%) of 2019 Conservative voters also hold this view. Less than a fifth (12% to 18%) of the voters of the major two parties disagree that Brexit has been done in name only.
Moreover, only around a third (34%) agree that the current status of Brexit reflects the desire of those who voted to leave during the 2016 Referendum. 30% neither agree nor disagree that the current status of Brexit reflects the desires of Leave voters, and 25% disagree that it does.
Younger respondents aged 18-24 years old (46%) and 25-34-years old (45%) are much more likely than older adults aged 55 or above (21% to 25%) to consider that the current status of Brexit reflects the desire of Leave voters. However, a clear plurality (36% to 40%) of 2019 Conservative and Labour voters agree.
A strong plurality (47%) do not expect to notice a sizable difference in their life when the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year. Only around a quarter (26%) expect to experience a noticeable difference, and 27% don’t know.
Responses to this question are broadly similar across age groups, although adults aged between 25-34 (32%) and 35-44 (29%) are most likely to expect a notable difference from January 2021. A sharp partisan dimension is evident: Labour voters (35%) are twice as likely than Conservative voters (17%) to expect a notable difference in their life when the transition period is concluded. The overwhelming majority (62%) of Conservative voters do not expect any extensive change in their life from January, compared to a minority (39%) of Labour supporters. Intriguingly, respondents who voted for the major pro-Brexit party in the last General Election do not consider that the UK leaving the EU will have much effect in their life.
Levels of optimism and pessimism about Britain’s post-Brexit future also vary significantly depending on political allegiance. Two thirds (65%) of Conservative voters are optimistic about Britain’s future outside of the European Union, in contrast to just 22% of Labour voters.
Across the overall sample. 38% are optimistic about Britain’s future outside of the bloc, whereas 33% are pessimistic, a finding which ultimately underscores that the country remains strongly divided on whether Brexit will benefit or damage the country.