How Brexit has exposed the sea of troubles that divide us
With the constant emergency twists and turns of the Coronavirus crisis, it is easy at times to lose sight of the fact that the transition period is virtually over and the reality of Brexit looms.
That reality, though, brings with it continued uncertainty and confusion, as the long striven for but seemingly just-out-of-reach trade deal with our former partners appears to be, at the time of going to print, just-out- of-reach as ever.
This year has not, in Brexit terms alone, brought the promised clarity at the end of the bitter and ferocious Brexit war, nor is it bringing peace to the Brexit battleground within the UK.
For amidst all the uncertainty and confusion, one surprising, yet increasingly clear, fact has emerged: the way we voted in the referendum goes way beyond Brexit – it informs our opinion on almost everything. And rather than still being a nation split, in the main, between Labour and Conservative, we are now essentially either Leavers or Remainers.
This staggering fact is being increasingly discussed and investigated by analysts, politicians and commentators, and can be clearly demonstrated by some of the survey topics undertaken by Perspective.
In our surveys, as well as the conventional Male/Female and generational categories, we also analyse responses according to Leave and Remain. And we can examine this phenomenon by looking at three of this month’s survey topics: those on Eco Activism, the controversy over Harry and Meghan’s royal titles, and the question of benefits in the event of mass unemployment as a result of Covid-19.
Starting with Eco Activism, one of our survey questions asked if protest aimed at civil disruption is an effective means of bringing about environmental change? Overall, 49% of those surveyed said it is not effective, but that average disguises a gulf between the 72% of Leave voters and only 27% of Remainers who gave that response.
Turning to the Harry and Meghan debate, one of our questions asked whether Meghan has been victimised in the Press because of her ethnicity and background. The controversial question threw up some controversial answers.
While 43% of us believe she has been victimised, only 19% of Leavers thought so, whilst 61% of Remainers did. And although 37% of those surveyed voiced the opinion that she has not been victimised, the figure was much higher amongst Leavers (63%) than Remainers (just 25%).
And on the third topic, on the fear of mass unemployment due to Covid-19, we raised a question about the level of benefits. We asked whether benefits are too high, too low, or just right, considering that millions might lose their jobs as a result of the Corona crisis.
Once again, the results were illuminating, and with this question in particular it’s necessary to show the percentages in full to see the complete picture. Overall 18% thought they were too high, but that average was comprised of 26% of Leavers and 11% of Remainers who responded that way.
The difference was less stark amongst those that felt that benefits were just right, with 22% of Leavers and 26% of Remainers giving that response to make the average of 24%. An overall figure of 39% thought they were too low (being the average of 25% of Leavers and 51% of Remainers). Finally 19% didn’t know, which garnered 27% of the Leave voters and 12% of the Remain voters.
These fascinating and clear divides are backed up by a recent work by the psephologist, John Curtice, whose own study found that 77% of us identify strongly with either side of the Brexit debate, as against only 37% who feel a similar strong allegiance to a political party.
As the full reality of life outside mainstream Europe bites next year, it remains unlikely that long-term Tory voters will sud- denly vote Labour or visa-versa, although of course many traditional Labour voters did desert their party last year in order to “get Brexit done”.
Certainly, politicians on all sides in post-Brexit Britain will be forming and shaping policies on a whole raft of issues with a much keener consideration of the Leave and Remain attitudes to each particular issue.