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Majority of Leave voters reject stripping Senedd powers – Welsh Election Study

22 February 2022

Graph showing support for protecting devolved powers

A majority of Leave voters in Wales believe that Brexit should not be used to remove powers from the Senedd, according to findings from researchers at Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre.

Writing in a British Politics after Brexit report for the UK in a Changing Europe initiative, the academics used Welsh Election Study (WES) data to show that 52% of Leave voters, 88% of Remain voters, and 71% of the Welsh electorate as a whole rejected the suggestion that “the UK Government is right to remove powers from the Senedd if it is necessary to maximise Brexit benefits”.

The data confirm that the Leave vote in Wales in the 2016 referendum was not fundamentally linked to scepticism over devolution, according to the authors Richard Wyn Jones, Jac Larner and Daniel Wincott.

This finding – that voting Leave and ‘devo-scepticism’ are not interlinked – was replicated at last year’s Senedd elections, where anti-devolution parties collapsed without generating an equal-sized increase in vote share for the Conservatives. Previous WES findings demonstrated that Welsh Labour succeeded in holding on to a larger than anticipated share of its own Leave voters.

Richard Wyn Jones commented:

“Data collected by the 2021 Welsh Election Study shows that a substantial majority of the Welsh electorate reject any undermining of devolved powers in the name of Brexit. This view is shared even by a majority of Welsh Leave voters.

“This raises far-reaching questions for the Welsh Conservatives as they adopt an increasingly ‘devo-sceptic’ stance. While such a stance may well be popular with their own activist base and core support, it is in danger of alienating them further from floating voters as well as majority opinion in Wales.”

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