No public consensus on ‘Brexit’

20 October 2016

EU and UK flags on beach

New polling data released by a Cardiff University research unit suggests that there is no evidence of any emerging consensus amongst Welsh people on what should be achieved from the ‘Brexit’ negotiations following the referendum held on 23 June 2016.

The data shows that a majority of those that voted to Leave the European Union (EU) want to see a ‘hard Brexit’ deal whilst, in stark contrast, many of those who voted to Remain in the EU want to reverse the referendum decision and stay in the union. Hard Brexit means the UK concluding, at most, a limited trade deal with the rest of the EU.

The new polling is published by the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University, as a part of its work examining the impact of ‘Brexit’ on Wales.

When asked how leaving the EU will affect Wales, those who voted to Remain strongly believe Wales will suffer more than the rest of the UK, whilst most of those who voted to Leave think Wales will be no worse off than the rest of the UK.

The research also shows that most voters in Wales, no matter how they voted in the referendum, do not trust either the Welsh or UK Government to handle the “Brexit” process.

The data shows that:

  • There is no clear consensus on what kind of deal the UK should have with the EU. The most popular option is a limited trade only deal with the EU (32%); followed by reversing the referendum result (23%); followed by full access to the single market and freedom of movement (16%); and no deal at all (15%).
  • The plurality of people think that Wales will suffer more/benefit less than the rest of UK (37%) as a result of Brexit, while 34% of people believe that Wales will benefit or suffer about the same amount as the rest of the UK. Only 8% of people believe Wales will benefit more from Brexit than elsewhere in the UK.
  • Many people in Wales think that leaving the EU will make no difference to their personal circumstances (37%), whilst 32% believe they will be worse off as a result of Brexit. Only 14% of people believe they will be better off as a result of leaving the union.
  • A substantial majority of people in Wales do not trust either the Welsh (57%) or UK Government (62%) to handle the issue of the UK leaving the EU. Only 30% of people trust the Welsh or UK Government to handle the issue.

Commenting on these new findings, Professor Roger Scully of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University said: “This new opinion polling data strongly suggests that there is no agreement from the Welsh public as to what they want from the Brexit process.

"This is hardly surprising considering the lack of detail that has been forthcoming over how the process will be handled and what is going to be asked for. But the evidence also shows substantial differences persisting between Remain and Leave voters..."

“The two sides seem as far apart as ever – something that will make it all the more difficult for any consensus to emerge on what Brexit should mean."

Professor Roger Scully, Professor of Political Science

Dr Jo Hunt, of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University added: “Once the Article 50 process is triggered, probably by the end of March 2017, the clock will start ticking for the UK Government and EU to reach a joint settlement on the terms of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

“Whatever the outcome, the degree of distance between Leave and Remain voters revealed by this data demonstrates that it's going to be difficult to find a solution that is acceptable to the whole of the UK.”

*The survey, for Cardiff University, had a sample of 1001 Welsh adults and was carried out by YouGov from 18 September – 21 September 2016.

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Wales Governance Centre

Undertaking innovative research into all aspects of the law, politics, government and political economy of Wales, as well the wider UK and European contexts of territorial governance.