British public opinion on Brexit: controversies and contradictions

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

Source: Authors’ survey, YouGov, 29 June 2017

Fig. 2

Source: Authors’ survey, YouGov, 29 June 2017

Fig. 3

Source: Authors’ survey, YouGov, 29 June 2017

Fig. 4

Source: Authors’ survey, YouGov, 29 June 2017

Fig. 5

Source: Authors’ survey, YouGov, 29 June 2017

References

  1. BBC. 2016. Voters ‘split on UK Brexit priorities’. BBC News November 16. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37989728. Accessed 20 Feb 2018.

  2. Borrelli, S.S. 2017. Theresa May: UK will seek clean break from single market and customs union. Politico January 17. https://www.politico.eu/pro/theresa-may-uk-will-seek-clean-break-from-single-market-and-customs-union/. Accessed 20 Feb 2018.

  3. Goodwin, M. 2017. Britain’s ‘have cake and eat it’ stance on Brexit. Politico September 27. https://www.politico.eu/article/the-uk-populations-have-cake-and-eat-it-stance-on-brexit-polls/. Accessed 20 Feb 2018.

  4. Hobolt, S.B. 2016. The Brexit vote: A divided nation, a divided continent. Journal of European Public Policy 23(9): 1259–1277.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Hobolt, S.B., and C. De Vries. 2016. Public support for European integration. Annual Review of Political Science 19: 413–432.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Menon, A. and B. Fowler. 2016. ‘Hard or soft? The politics of Brexit’, National Institute Economic Review No. 238 November.

  7. Vasilopoulou, S. 2016. UK Euroscepticism and the Brexit referendum. Political Quarterly 87(2): 219–227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sofia Vasilopoulou.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Vasilopoulou, S., Talving, L. British public opinion on Brexit: controversies and contradictions. Eur Polit Sci 18, 134–142 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41304-018-0156-9

Download citation

Keywords

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