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Brexit 7-Years On: Where Are We Now?

brexit

The seven-year anniversary of the Brexit referendum marks a significant day in UK history. For some, Brexit symbolised freedom, for others it demonstrated the entering of far-right ideals into the mainstream political sphere.

Seven-years on, the advantages and disadvantages of Brexit are still being debated – so where are we now?

Lack of popular support for Brexit

BBC Question time has found that at least 20% of Brexit supporters would vote differently if they were asked now. Audience members were quizzed on whether Brexit was the right thing to do, with the results showing 70% still agreed, 20% would vote differently while 10% were unsure.

Moreover, according to a new poll published by the Tony Blair Institute and carried out by Deltapoll, more than 50% of 1,525 people surveyed in the UK believe it was wrong to leave the EU. Furthermore, nearly 80% believe that the UK should have a closer relationship with the EU in the future, with 43% wanting the UK to rejoin the bloc and 13% preferring a return to the single market only. The data forms part of a new report, which considers how the UK can improve its post-Brexit relationship with the EU.

The poll found that 34% still believe that Brexit was the correct decision but also found that 18% of Leave voters now believe that the decision was wrong.

Anton Spisak, head of political leadership at the institute, said: “Our polling shows that there is a large majority of the British public who recognise that Brexit in its current form isn’t working and would like to see the UK moving closer to the EU. This creates a substantial political space to move the debate forward from refighting the old battles about whether Brexit was right or wrong, to discussing what an improved future relationship with the EU should look like”.

“The EU will always remain a key strategic ally, and it is absurd that the bloc has deeper trading arrangements with Israel and Georgia, better regulatory recognition on food-safety standards with Canada and New Zealand, and deeper mechanisms for political co-operation with nations including Australia and Japan.

“Any future British government that wants to improve the relationship with the EU will need a carefully considered strategic plan – and make a clear-eyed offer to the other side. Asking the EU nicely cannot succeed as a negotiating strategy.”

Among the proposals set out by the institute include encouraging the Government to commit to a voluntary alignment with EU regulations on goods, including product rules and food safety standards. The think-tank believes this could be a precursor to negotiations with the bloc on closer regulatory alignment on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. The report also suggests linking the UK and the EU’s emissions trading systems, as well as agreeing an reciprocal exchange scheme for young people while also improving mobility for business people. It also calls for a so-called “strategic pillar” within the current trade agreement that would act as the basis for a joint framework on foreign policy and defence.

The Scottish Government Report

To mark the anniversary of the Brexit vote, the Scottish government has published a short paper on the impact of leaving the EU on Scotland. Scotland voted remain by 62% to 38%, making it the most pro-remain of the four nations of the UK, and the SNP, which wants an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU, has criticised Brexit more strongly than any other party in the UK.

In its paper, the Scottish government does not identify any advantages of Brexit and says that Brexit has “limited growth, restricted trade, increased food costs and diminished opportunities”. The report particularly points to restrictions on freedom of movement which it claims has resulted in labour shortages across various sectors including the NHS, agriculture and hospitality. It also argues that trade barriers are making it difficult to import and export goods which is negatively impacting people on top of the current cost-of-living-crisis.

Moreover, the report argues that “Scotland’s rural and research sectors have lost out on hundreds of millions of pounds worth of EU funding, which the UK government has been unable to match. A generation of young Scots have been deprived of life-changing exchange opportunities to study abroad”.

The report concludes that “the only way to meaningfully reverse this damage and restore the benefits Scotland previously enjoyed, is for an independent Scotland to re-join the European Union.”

Final thought

The benefits and downfalls of Brexit remain contested. While polls are important, it is crucial not to overstate the extent to which people disagree. As the BBC found, 70% of people who voted Leave still stand by their decisions. Hence, there are nuances to the debate and it could be that people are able to support a closer relationship with the EU, rather than being part of the single market.

Moreover, authors of the Deltapoll report have cautioned that “views of those who voted in the 2016 referendum do not appear to have changed dramatically”. “Instead, a key factor in this change is the attitudes of those respondents aged between 18 and 24 who did not vote in 2016 but largely consider the decision to leave as wrong. “Most of the shift appears attributable to younger people entering the electorate rather than a significant portion of those who voted Leave changing their minds,” the report says.

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