London: A clear majority of the British public now believes Brexit has been bad for the UK economy, has driven up prices in shops, and has hampered government attempts to control immigration, according to a poll by Opinium to mark the third anniversary of the UK leaving the EU single market and customs union.
The survey of more than 2,000 UK voters also finds strikingly low numbers of people who believe that Brexit has benefited them or the country.
Just one in 10 believe leaving the EU has helped their personal financial situation, against 35% who say it has been bad for their finances, while just 9% say it has been good for the NHS, against 47% who say it has had a negative effect.
Ominously for prime minister Rishi Sunak, who backed Brexit and claimed it would be economically beneficial, only 7% of people think it has helped keep down prices in UK shops, against 63% who think Brexit has been a factor in fuelling inflation and the cost of living crisis.
The poll suggests that seven and a half years on from the referendum the British public now regards Brexit as a failure. Just 22% of voters believe it has been good for the UK in general.
The Vote Leave campaign led by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove had promised that Brexit would boost the economy and trade, as well as bring back £350m a week into the NHS and allow the government to take back control of the UK’s borders.
James Crouch, head of policy and public affairs at Opinium, said the perception of Brexit being handled badly and having had negative effects on various aspect of UK life appeared to be spreading: “Public discontent at how Brexit has been handled by the government continues, with perceived failings even in areas previously seen as a potential benefit from leaving the EU.
“More than half (53%) of leave voters now think that Brexit has been bad for the UK’s ability to control immigration, piling even more pressure on an issue the government is vulnerable on. Despite this, Brexit is likely to be a secondary issue at the next election compared to the state of the economy and the NHS, which are the clear priority for voters.”
Robert Ford, professor of political science at Manchester University, said that while there was now evidence that negative perceptions of Brexit, particularly on the economy, could have an effect on votes at a general election, Brexit was very unlikely to play such a direct role as it did at the last two general elections.
Ford said: “Voters’ attention has shifted decisively elsewhere, with leave and remain voters alike focused on the domestic agenda of rising bills, struggling public services and weak economic growth.
“The appeal of ‘Get Brexit Done’ was not just about completing the long Brexit process but also about unblocking the political system and delivering on other long-neglected issues. Brexit got done, but this has not unblocked the political system, and troubles elsewhere have only deepened. Many of the voters who backed the Conservatives to deliver change now look convinced that achieving change requires ejecting the Conservatives.
“This shift in sentiment may be particularly stark among the ‘red wall’ voters who rallied most eagerly to Johnson’s banner four years ago, but have been most exposed to rising bills and collapsing public services since. The final act of Brexit may yet be the collapse of the Brexit electoral coalition.”
One of the key claims of the Brexiters was that leaving the EU’s single market and customs union would usher in a new era of global trade for the UK based on trade deals with other parts of the world. Many voters now seem to have concluded that Brexit has in fact been bad for trade. Some 49% think it has been bad for the ability of UK firms to import goods from outside the EU, while 15% think it has helped.