Ardent Leave areas now favour closer UK-EU relationship as Brexit attitudes shift

The first major poll on attitudes to the EU conducted in reference to new UK electoral boundaries suggests that British voters have undergone a major transformation in their attitudes towards the European Union.

The representative poll of 10,102 people by Focaldata on behalf of internationalist campaign group Best for Britain reaffirms that most believe Brexit has created more problems than it solved (63%) but also makes the groundbreaking finding that more than half (53%) believe the UK should pursue closer ties with the EU compared to 14% who want a more distant relationship.

A closer relationship was the most popular response in every British constituency under the new boundaries including in the 5 constituencies which recorded the highest proportion of Leave voters in 2016, those who want a closer relationship with the EU now outnumber those who want the opposite more than 2 to 1. 

On the UK keeping regulatory pace with the EU, 52% believe that the UK would be better to align with our largest trading partners with 35% preferring divergence with more than 99% of GB constituencies favouring alignment with the EU.  

The findings reveal that many of the politicians who most forcefully advocate scrapping laws which maintain high EU standards are seriously out of step with their own personal electorate. In North East Somerset, 53% of people are in favour of closer alignment with the EU, despite their MP Jacob Rees-Mogg introducing the Retained EU Law Bill.

Despite fierce rhetoric from the Government on the need to reduce immigration, the poll further shows that half (51%) favour increasing the availability of UK visas particularly for sectors experiencing labour shortages, something which separate research suggests has been made worse by Brexit. Only 23% want the UK to issue fewer visas. More than two thirds (68%) are in favour of a reciprocal EU-UK Youth Mobility Scheme.

Labour shortages and regulatory divergence remain key concerns for businesses who continue to experience slower growth due in part to Brexit. Next month, Trade Unlocked, a major new conference at the NEC in Birmingham, will bring businesses of all sizes, from all parts of the economy together with policymakers and trade experts in an interactive event empowering businesses to impact economic policy.

Naomi Smith, Chief Executive of Best for Britain said,

“In just a few short years, public opinion in Britain has moved on from being pro-Brexit, to believing Johnson’s deal has done more harm than good, to now supporting a closer relationship with the EU.

“Our first of its kind poll shows that with deepening ties being the most popular option in every constituency in Britain, there are votes to be won for any political party prepared to make this case to the electorate.”

Kim Darroch, former British Ambassador to the EU and to the USA, and chairman of Best for Britain said,

"Whether in Europe, South America or the Pacific, the general direction of travel has been the same for decades; nations working together to make trade easier and less expensive while entwining economic interests to reduce the potential for conflict.

“In an increasingly hostile world, our economic and political interests align with our closest neighbours and allies. A majority of voters now understand that.”

Peter Norris, Co-convener of the UK Trade and Business Commission and Chair of the Virgin Group said, 

 “From higher inflation to fruit rotting in fields, we can see the economic impact of both labour shortages and divergence from our largest trading partner, the EU. And from this polling, it is clear that the majority of voters knows that Brexit is a key factor.

“As the UK economy continues to underperform, regulatory alignment with our largest market to help stimulate growth makes total sense, as does improving the ability of businesses of all types to hire the people they need.”