With the Labour Party currently holding a consistent double digit lead over the Conservatives in Westminster voting intention polling, the party’s policy positions on a range of issues, from the environment and foreign affairs to the economy and housing, are coming under greater scrutiny.
One area in which Labour policy has been under less scrutiny in recent months has been the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union. This lack of scrutiny is reflected in public opinion: by and large, most voters are unaware of Labour’s EU policy.
Overall, 41% of British voters think that the party’s policy is to re-join the European Union, while another 43% state either that they are unsure or that Labour has no clear policy on this issue. Just 16% correctly state that the current policy of the Labour Party is to stay out of the EU.
Public awareness of the general direction of Labour’s EU policy is also decidedly mixed, with 32% saying that Labour seeks a closer relationship with the EU, 31% saying that the party is in favour of the status quo or a more distant relationship, and 39% saying either that they themselves do not know or that Labour is unclear.
Altogether, 47% of voters say they support the party’s position on making Brexit work, a figure that is basically unchanged from 46% in March. Given the consistent lack of opposition to this policy, the few who oppose this policy may be finding it difficult to gather momentum for an awareness campaign. Hence, the policy’s inoffensiveness may contribute to the public’s lack of knowledge about it.
Moreover, just 35% of voters think that Keir Starmer is genuine about this position on Brexit (virtually unchanged from 33% in March), against 33% who believe that he is not being genuine. 32% say they don’t know. Again, this result reflects the public’s uncertainty of Labour’s EU policy.
Underlying all of these figures, however, is the relative unimportance of Brexit as an electoral issue.
In our latest poll, only 10% of voters say that Britain leaving the EU is one of their top three election issues. Among 2019 Labour voters, the share selecting Britain leaving the EU as one of their top three election issues has fallen steadily over time, from 25% in August 2021 to just 12% in our latest poll.
Meanwhile, around 27% of all voters say that a party’s Brexit policy would be extremely important in determining which party to vote for, a figure that places Britain’s exit from the EU in the middle-to-lower tier of election issues. By comparison, 67% say that parties’ policies on the economy and healthcare are extremely important in determining which party to vote for.
Critically, when asked whether they would be more likely to vote for a party that advocates for re-joining the EU or staying out, 31% of voters, a plurality, say that they would be most likely to support and vote for a party that prioritises other issues first.
Furthermore, there is growing evidence that the Brexit cleavage which divided British voters for much of the 2010s has been superseded in political importance by more traditional divisions, such as class and political party identity. Consequently, while Britons may not be certain of Labour’s position on Europe for now, this lack of awareness comes with little cost in terms of support for the party.