Living with long Brexit

Would we now choose differently?

Brexit: for better or worse, for richer or poorer, the trade deal between the UK and the EU – a deal that appeared to be undoable until the very last moment – was finally done. No one seems to love it, many apparently loathe it and few are said to even like it.

However we feel, we all have to lump it! The precise implications of the 1,255 page agreement are still being unravelled and analysed but what is already beyond doubt is that even with this far from perfect deal there will be significant changes, some big, some small – like the UK truck driver whose ham sandwich was confiscated by Dutch border officers because it contravened new restrictions on the importation of animal products. And they didn’t even let him keep the bread because of potential cross-contamination with the ham. Just one tiny and insignificant example – unless, of course, you were that truck driver – but changes have begun and will continue affecting us all in ways too numerous to list. And some changes have yet to be identified. One certainty is that coronavirus continues its disastrous detrimental impact on the economy and in the short term will remain the main economic factor. But economists warn that it is the cost and effects of Brexit that could hamper the UK economy for years to come.

How then, more than four years on from that momentous vote, do we feel about Brexit? Was it the right decision then, and does it remain so now, or did we get it monumentally wrong? We avoided the dreaded and unthinkable no-deal “Hard Brexit” which, despite reassurances to the contrary from Boris Johnson, would undoubtedly have left the UK worse off. And in the real world, even the Government accepts that with the increase in bureaucracy some sectors will suffer; the Scottish fishing industry is already reporting
fish prices collapsing by as much as 80% because additional red tape means EU bound catches cannot be sold quickly enough.

There will be more to come on the debit side, but some forecasters predict Brexit bonuses too. Since the 2016 vote, pollsters have frequently asked “Was it the right decision?” But that was while those interminable negotiations continued and predictions were shifting from delight to disaster and back again. Now it’s all over. So what does the nation think now?

What our surveys show 

After more than four years of argument, accusations, recriminations and resignations, our survey revealed that the nation remains divided over Brexit. With our main question, we decided to exclude the “don’t knows” in order to replicate, as much as is possible, an actual referendum. For the same reason we did not break down the figures into generational or other groups. We opted this time to focus purely on the numbers and in answer to “How would you vote now?” 54% said Remain while 46% said Leave. Still close – but a referendum reversal.

We asked then if the UK would be better or worse off as a result of the Brexit deal. Just 19% said “better off ” than if we had stayed EU members, while 38% reckoned we will be “worse off ”. Many though, are uncertain as to the deal’s impact, with 18% saying “neither better nor worse off ” and a full 25% saying they simply “don’t know”. However, a huge majority, 67%, believe the Government has conducted deal negotiations “badly” since the Leave vote. Only 26% of those surveyed thought our negotiators did “well” and 7% said they “don’t know”.

 

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