British public opinion on Brexit: controversies and contradictions


What does Brexit really mean? We examine what people expect from the Brexit deal, highlighting three key findings. First, while trade is the key policy priority among the British electorate, opinion is divided on whether the UK should leave the customs union. Second, the public is split on the potential trade-off between remaining in the European single market and the ability to control free movement of people across the borders. Third, Britons are opposed to sharing welfare benefits with others, but tend to support EU citizens living, working and doing business in the UK. However, they expect greater access to welfare for UK citizens in European countries compared to EU citizens in the UK.

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Fig. 1

Source: Authors’ survey, YouGov, 29 June 2017

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Source: Authors’ survey, YouGov, 29 June 2017

Fig. 3

Source: Authors’ survey, YouGov, 29 June 2017

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Source: Authors’ survey, YouGov, 29 June 2017

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Source: Authors’ survey, YouGov, 29 June 2017


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This article draws upon research funded by an ESRC Future Leaders Grant, ES/N001826/1.

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Correspondence to Sofia Vasilopoulou.

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Vasilopoulou, S., Talving, L. British public opinion on Brexit: controversies and contradictions. Eur Polit Sci 18, 134–142 (2019).

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  • Brexit
  • Public opinion
  • Euroscepticism
  • Freedom of movement
  • Trade