Brexit: A Divided Country

Politics over the next few years will be dominated by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Just after the referendum, 63% of Fear and…

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Chapter : Brexit: A Divided Country

Politics over the next few years will be dominated by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Just after the referendum, 63% of Fear and HOPE respondents believed Britain was more divided as a result of the vote and the numbers of people who believe there are tensions between different communities at a local and national level had increased: just 12% of people disagreed.

As our 2017 survey shows, the country is just as divided a year on and there appears little room for compromise or a solution that will please everyone.

Frustrations on both sides

As our post-referendum Fear and HOPE highlighted, what a ‘good deal’ might mean is very different to different groups. When leave voters were asked the most important factors in their voting decision, 58% of the active enmity group and 44% of the latent hostile group felt that regaining control over borders and immigration was the most important factor. For remain voters across all tribes, economic risks and access to the single market were more significant.

Now that Brexit negotiations have begun, we presented survey participants with a number of possible outcomes. Indeed, there are a lot of frustrations on both sides. It is more likely that the eventual deal will disappoint virtually everyone, and only 6% of people have a great deal of confidence that Theresa May will secure a good deal for Britain.

The hostile tribes are angry about a situation that would relieve liberal remainers, while these liberal tribes would be equally angry at a situation that relieved the more hostile groups. 51% of confident multiculturals would be enraged by a deal in which Britain withdrew from the single market in order to limit immigration while the exact same proportion of latent hostiles would be angered were the UK to remain in the single market but retain free movement. 77% of latent hostiles and 70% of the active enmity group would feel anger if Britain were to repeal the result of the referendum and remain in the EU, while this would relieve around the same proportion of confident multiculturals (63%).

The only scenario which had a clear majority one way or another was if Britain left the EU without a deal. Only 11% of people displayed relief at that scenario, whilst 46% reacted with anger.

Lessons for Remainers

Despite the clear polarisation within society over leaving the EU, there is little to cheer strong Remainers. There is little appetite for a second referendum and no indication that the result would be any different if there was a second vote. The uncertainty about what Brexit will mean for the country has created a sense of unease and frustration among those most likely to have voted remain, whose views are looking increasingly separated from the popular majority.

What is clear is that a year on from the referendum, the Remainers have still not made an effective and persuasive case for the economic perils of leaving the EU that resonates with the British public. Unless they can create a new narrative quickly, it would seem that the Remainers will have to wait for the impact of Brexit to actually be felt before hoping to win over the soft Brexit vote – and by which time it would be too late to do anything about it.


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