The Truth About Brexit that Westminster is Too Scared to Mention
A surge in support for rejoining the EU means the debate on Brexit is far from over, according to the UK’s most-respected pollster, Adam Bienkov reports
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The British people no longer want Brexit. That’s the unavoidable conclusion to be drawn from recent polling showing a surge in support for the UK rejoining European Union.
According to polling compiled by the leading pollster John Curtice, there has been a “clear shift” since 2016, which has accelerated over the past year.
“The level of support for being inside the EU has been going up, particularly more recently in this summer and autumn,” he said.
Curtice’s poll of polls suggests there is now an overwhelming 14-point lead for rejoining the EU among decided voters.
“The truth is that Brexit is now probably less popular than it has been at any point since June 2016”, Curtice told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday morning.
Yet despite the growing public consensus that leaving the EU was a mistake, neither of the two main political parties appear willing to even discuss it.
When asked about the prospect of backing the UK’s re-entry to the bloc, Labour leader Keir Starmer told LBC last week that “it’s a straight no from me”.
Curtice is unconvinced this consensus will hold.
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“What is interesting is that despite the fact that within [Parliament] at least, leaders (with the exception of the SNP) don’t want to talk about Brexit… within the public the debate is still there”, Curtice said.
Comparing the 2016 result to the apparently decisive 1975 referendum result approving of membership of the Common Market, Curtice suggested that the pendulum was likely to once again swing back towards the UK having a closer relationship with Europe.
“My own personal view at the moment is that it looks as though the vote in the 2016 referendum is going to be as unsuccessful as the 1975 referendum in proving to be a permanent settlement of this debate”, he said.
The political reluctance to confront this issue does not extend to Scotland, where Nicola Sturgeon’s party remains committed to the country rejoining the EU after independence.
“In Scotland, it is now central to the whole debate and the two issues of Brexit and independence are intertwined and we do have a party that is saying Brexit is a damn stupid idea”, Curtice said.
Curtice predicted that this could also change in England.
However, he suggested that the debate is unlikely to re-open inside Westminster until after the next general election, currently expected in 2024.
The debate could shift once Labour returns to power, with pressure for a new vote coming from the party’s overwhelmingly pro-Remain voters.
“Those people who have changed their minds about Brexit are more likely to be Labour voters”, he said.
“And the Labour Party is doing very well amongst those people who did not vote in 2016 who are about two-to-one in favour of rejoining the EU. So actually, Labour’s vote is even more pro-remain than [the headline figures] show.”