Is Britain heading back into the embrace of the EU?

New poll reveals seven in 10 Britons favour building closer ties with the EU

Britons want the UK to have closer ties with the EU, according to a new YouGov poll. Getty Images
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Almost four years since Britain left the European Union there are signals that the mood has changed, and the country may be keen to rekindle its relations.

A new poll has revealed that seven in 10 Britons favour building closer ties with the EU and many believe Brexit was the wrong decision.

The YouGov poll shows many Britons now favouring a closer relationship with the EU.

It comes after shadow foreign secretary David Lammy promised to strengthen the UK’s relationship with the European Union if Labour wins next year’s general election.

“It’s our number one priority because it’s our backyard,” he told the i podcast.

“It’s our number one priority because there is war in Europe and because I believe our future prosperity and security is predicated on good relationships with our European partners.”

His comments were made days after European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen suggested the next generation could put the UK on a path to rejoining the EU.

Speaking at an event in Brussels, Ms Von der Leyen said “the direction of travel” was clear and suggested the younger generation could “fix” the mistake of Brexit.

“I must say, I keep telling my children: ‘You have to fix it. We goofed it up, you have to fix it,’ ” she said.

“So I think here too, the direction of travel – my personal opinion – is clear.”

Mr Lammy has said that if Labour were to win the election, there would be “a tonal shift” in UK-EU relations with a move to return to more regular talks between the governmental powers.

But he stopped short of a Labour pledge to return to the EU, saying there would be no contemplation of broaching the matter in the current political cycle.

Instead, he insisted that his focus as foreign secretary would be to work in the national interests of both Leave and Remain voters.

But he did not rule out a return to the EU down the track, notable after recent polling suggested the British public has an increasing regret about Brexit.

Professor Federico Fabbrini, director of the Brexit Institute at Dublin City University, told The National he does not expect a return to the EU soon.

“There is no doubt it is possible for the UK to rejoin the EU, every European state can apply for membership,” he said.

“We meet all the criteria to be readmitted. But for politics, it is a different kettle of fish and it is unlikely the UK will take the step any time soon. EU membership would be too politically divisive.

“The referendum only took place in 2016 and the exit only occurred in 2020. It is only a short space of time for the UK to change its mind and go back. Britain's representatives left a sour feeling even before Brexit and were being awkward.”

He said the UK has work to do to soothe its strained relationship with the EU.

Mr Lammy is committed to building a stronger relationship with the EU and this week said he believed Britons would find it “extraordinary” that the UK government does not sit down for talks with the European Union “every four months or every six months” to go over issues relevant to both parties.

“We need to get back to that,” he said.

A recent UK In A Changing Europe report found that 16 per cent of 2016 Leave voters now say they would vote to rejoin.

This week Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s press secretary stressed that he was committed to making a success of Brexit.

“We have a Prime Minister that championed Brexit before it was in his career interest to do so because he believes in it passionately,” she said.

“We are very focused on making a success of it.”

She said that Mr Sunak did not agree to Ms von der Leyen’s comments.

“It’s through our Brexit freedoms that we are, right now, considering how to further strengthen our migration system,” she said.

“It is through our Brexit freedoms we are ensuring patients in the UK can get access to medicines faster, that there is improved animal welfare. That is very much what we are focused on.”

Director of think tank The Henry Jackson Society, Dr Alan Mendoza, said he thinks it's "highly unlikely" this will ever happen.

"While you can never say never in politics, the idea that the Labour Party is going to campaign on this topic in the foreseeable future is highly unlikely," he told The National.

"It’s of course possible that a future generation may change the national mind on this subject, but it would be a brave politician who set out their stall like this."

Updated: December 04, 2023, 9:48 AM