Majority of Britons want new Brexit vote

Poll finds growing support for a second referendum

Anti-Brexit protesters in Northern Ireland. At least 56 per cent of poll respondents believe the UK economy has deteriorated as a result of Brexit. Getty
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Nearly two-thirds of Britons now support a referendum on rejoining the European Union, a new poll has shown.

With Britain facing severe economic challenges following the break from its major trading partner, there is growing disillusionment among the population over the promises made by Brexiteers.

That has been reflected in the latest survey, showing that nearly two thirds want a second referendum, with the vote now expected to go in favour of returning to the EU.

The Savanta opinion poll found that the numbers who want a second vote has risen to 65 per cent, up from 55 per cent a year ago.

For the first time, the survey also showed that the majority, 54 per cent, believe that Brexit was the wrong decision, an increase from 46 per cent last year.

Federico Fabbrini, director of the Brexit Institute think-tank, told The National that while the "dire economic consequences" of Brexit had been anticipated, they have only "become fully evident now".

"The explosion of the Covid-19 pandemic largely concealed the costs of exiting the EU but now these are for all to see, in terms of higher inflation, lack of workforce and difficulties in trade," said Mr Fabbrini, who is also a visiting professor at Princeton University. "This largely explains the change in public opinion — really for the first time since the referendum."

Any second referendum could well mean that Britain votes to rejoin the European bloc after the slender margin in the 2016 poll in which the UK voted by 52 per cent to 48 per cent in favour of exiting the EU.

Boris Johnson, Brexit’s chief cheerleader, has also been significantly discredited following his chaotic and dissembling period as prime minister.

Brexit’s leading strategist and inventor of the “take back control” slogan, Dominic Cummings, has also faced criticism during his time as Mr Johnson’s chief adviser in No 10 Downing Street.

Britain formally exited the EU on January 31, 2020. However, a year-long transition period meant it remained within the single market trade bloc until the start of 2021.

Chief Brexit strategist Dominic Cummings came up with the 'take back control' phrase. AFP

Since then, UK companies have been hamstrung by EU red tape and rules forced upon them, leading to a significant cut in GDP.

Researchers at the London School of Economics reported last week that Brexit had added £210 ($254) to the average household food bill in the two years to the end of 2021.

The Savanta poll, carried out for the Independent, found that 22 per cent of respondents wanted a second referendum straight away, with 24 per cent wanting one within five years and 11 per cent within a decade.

More worryingly for hardline Brexiteers, the numbers who believe there should never be a second referendum has fallen from 32 per cent to 24 per cent.

Brexiteers promised that taking back control of sovereignty by ditching Brussels’ rules would allow Britain to control its borders and strike new trade deals around the world.

However, in 2022, the UK set a record for the number of illegal immigrants crossing the English Channel, with almost 46,000 arriving.

While a number of international deals have been struck, they have by no means replaced the huge commerce Britain had with its biggest trading partner on its doorstep.

The majority of voters, 56 per cent, believed that Brexit has made Britain’s economy worse.

Similarly, half of those polled also thought that Brexit had lessened Britain’s global influence.

Furthermore, exactly half stated that it had weakened rather than strengthened the ability for the UK to control its own borders.

With immigration at record levels, Chris Hopkins, from Savanta believed that Brexit had made control of UK borders harder and was “not the taking back of control that all those who voted Leave were promised”.

But a government spokesman insisted that Britain was “taking full advantage” of Brexit’s benefits.

“We have taken back control of our borders, restored domestic control over our law-making and axed numerous pieces of bureaucratic red tape, saving businesses and consumers money across the country.”

Updated: January 02, 2023, 3:57 PM