Brexit anniversary: Public perception shifts to discontent

The prevailing sentiment among the majority of the British public, marking the third anniversary of the UK’s departure from the EU’s single market and customs union, is a resounding belief that Brexit has yielded detrimental outcomes for the nation.

Brexit protesters
Photo: ChiralJon/Flickr

A comprehensive Opinium poll, encompassing over 2,000 UK voters, underscores a widespread perception that Brexit has adversely impacted the economy, propelled an upsurge in retail prices, and hindered governmental efforts in managing immigration.

An overwhelming consensus has emerged, reflecting strikingly low numbers of individuals who perceive any personal or national benefits arising from Brexit. Merely one in 10 individuals express a belief that departing from the EU has positively affected their financial circumstances. Conversely, 35% acknowledge its negative implications on their finances. Similarly, a mere 9% contend that Brexit has been advantageous for the National Health Service (NHS), contrasting sharply with 47% who attest to its detrimental effects on this cornerstone institution.

Of particular concern for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a staunch supporter of Brexit, is the stark statistic indicating that only 7% of respondents credit Brexit with curbing prices in UK stores. A staggering 63% view Brexit as a contributing factor exacerbating inflation and exacerbating the ongoing cost of living crisis.

The survey portrays a substantial shift in public perception over seven and a half years since the referendum, depicting Brexit as a faltering endeavor. A mere 22% of voters perceive it as beneficial for the UK in general, standing in stark contrast to the promises made by the Vote Leave campaign led by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

Their assurances of economic enhancement, amplified trade prospects, a purported £350 million weekly injection into the NHS, and regaining control over the UK’s borders appear increasingly unfulfilled against the backdrop of this prevailing sentiment.

James Crouch, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Opinium, notes the expanding discontent regarding the government’s handling of Brexit, with growing acknowledgment of its adverse impacts across various facets of UK life. Even among leave voters, over half (53%) believe Brexit has compromised the nation’s ability to manage immigration, amplifying pressure on a government vulnerable on this front. However, despite these sentiments, Brexit is projected to assume a secondary role in upcoming elections compared to overarching concerns such as the economy and the NHS.

Professor Robert Ford of Manchester University underscores that while negative perceptions of Brexit, especially concerning the economy, may influence voting patterns in general elections, the issue is unlikely to exert the direct influence witnessed in prior elections. Voter attention has pivoted decisively towards domestic concerns encompassing escalating costs, strained public services, and tepid economic growth.

The once-potent allure of “Get Brexit Done” has evolved beyond Brexit’s completion, highlighting the unmet expectations in resolving a broader spectrum of longstanding issues. This disillusionment among voters, particularly those pivotal in the Brexit electoral coalition, may significantly impact political dynamics.

Notably, a pivotal claim by Brexit proponents centered on Brexit ushering in a new era of global trade through agreements with other global entities. However, a notable shift in public perception reflects a starkly contrasting reality, with 49% indicating Brexit’s adverse effects on UK firms’ capacity to import goods from beyond the EU, while a mere 15% perceive it as beneficial.

In essence, the Opinium poll crystallizes a prevailing sentiment of Brexit’s failures, encapsulating widespread concerns about its detrimental economic impact, escalating living costs, strained public services, and unmet promises, ultimately reshaping political landscapes and public perceptions in the UK.

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