Several polls conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies indicate the public broadly support the UK Government’s recent decision to offer up to three million Hong Kong residents the right to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship. The policy was introduced in response to a new National Security Law imposed in Hong Kong by Beijing, and which Prime Minister Boris Johnson argues ‘violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.’
On July 8, 50% of respondents voiced their approval for the policy of welcoming BNOs to the UK, a figure that remained unchanged from July 3rd. Likewise, 15% of respondents expressed disapproval, a similar level to our July 3rd poll (18%). As we noted last week, these two polls reveal a slight decrease in levels of support compared to the first poll we conducted on the BNO policy in June. In June we found 56% of respondents approved while only 12% expressed their disapproval.
There is slightly stronger level of support for the policy among 2019 Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters (55%), compared with 2019 Labour voters (48%), which may be due to party loyalty as well as the limited support for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary (the key architects of the policy) amongst left leaning voters. There is also strong support among respondents from London (56%), perhaps due to the prospect of highly productive and highly skilled Hong Kong residents boosting industries key to the capital’s wealth such as banking and finance.
Another key question is whether to welcome just the 350,000 Hong Kong residents who currently hold a British National Overseas passport, or, as the government has now decided, all those eligible for a BNO passport (around 3 million people) and their dependents. A slight plurality (36%) agree that the government have made the correct decision in offering a path to citizenship for all 3 million (36%), yet around a third (32%) disagree, and 32% ‘don’t know.’
Respondents who voted Conservative in 2019 are more likely to favour just welcoming current BNO passport holders (41%) than welcoming all those eligible (31%), which may indicate the wariness party supporters have about potential large-scale migration. In contrast, more 2019 Labour voters take the opposite view: 40% support welcoming all those eligible and 26% of them wish to welcome only current passport holders.
As further details about the severity of the National Security Law and more economic analyses revealing the potential boost to the UK economy of an influx of Hong Kong residents, emerge, it is likely the broad levels of support for the policy among the British public will continue. One challenge for the government going forward will be to convince the public, especially more Conservative-leaning voters, that increased migration from Hong Kong will be manageable and will have a positive impact on the UK economy, rather than overwhelm public services and saturate an already fragile job market.