Expert View

Public want final say on Brexit deal

by Peter Kellner | 04.12.2017

Peter Kellner is former president of YouGov.

The latest Survation poll confirms that public opinion has moved away from Brexit since the summer. And like YouGov, Survation finds that movements below the surface are greater than on the basic for-or-against question.

Survation’s poll for the Mail on Sunday, conducted in the wake of the recent controversies over future UK payments to the EU, and the conundrum of the Irish border, suggests that if there were a referendum now, the result would be the reverse of that in the vote 18 months ago, with 52% voting to remain in the EU and 48% voting for Brexit. Survation’s last poll, in July, had the two sides almost exactly level-pegging. On its own, this small shift might be simply a product of sampling fluctuation; but YouGov, which conducts polls more frequently, has detected the same shift since the summer. It looks real, if still modest.

Possibly more significant is another question that Survation has repeated: once the Brexit negotiations are complete, would people support or oppose holding a fresh referendum on whether to accept or reject them? Back in July, voters divided 46-39% in favour of a fresh referendum. The latest figures are: support 50%, oppose 34%. A seven point margin in favour of a new vote has more than doubled to 16 points.

Survation’s detailed figures provide a clue as to what is happening. Attitudes towards a fresh referendum have barely shifted among those who voted Leave last year: in July they divided 54-33% against a new vote; today the division is 52-34%. But among Remain voters, the figures have shifted from 61-29% in favour of a fresh referendum in July, to 68-20% today.

This matters, because one of the arguments in recent months in favour of Brexit has been that many Remain voters have accepted the verdict of last year’s referendum and now just want to get on with getting out of the EU. That sentiment has not disappeared; but the rise in the numbers of Remain voters wanting a new referendum, and the sharp drop in those rejecting a new referendum, suggests that opposition to Brexit is hardening, not diminishing, as time passes and the complexities of the talks multiply.

One other Survation result is worth noting. People were asked how the prospect of leaving the EU made them feel. Just 30% said “excited”, while 41% said “fearful”. A further 24% said “neither”. The difference between Leave and Remain voters is striking. Only just over half of Leave voters – 57% – say they are excited, while as many as 72% of Remain voters are fearful. And 12% of Leave voters – that’s two million people – admit to being fearful (while just 6% of Remain voters say they are excited).

I hope Survation  tracks this question in the months ahead. It could provide a telling lead indicator of how the pro- and anti-Brexit numbers might move – and how a second referendum might play out.

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    Edited by Hugo Dixon

    3 Responses to “Public want final say on Brexit deal”

    • Referendum
      Would it be possible for someone to write a piece on what would need to be done to arrange and have a referendum and most importantly how long it would all take?
      I suspect it would take quite a long time, as once the decision is taken to have a referendum we would need legislation, electoral commission would need to determine rules, campaigning and voting.
      How long before end March 2019 would the referendum need to be held.
      At what stage would HMG withdraw the “intention to leave”.

    • Some people glancing at this would think that 50% of people are in favour of a new referendum on whether to stay or leave the EU. This isn’t true. 50% of people want the opportunity to have a referendum on the TYPE of Brexit (e.g. soft Brexit v no deal). It’s a bit like being asked whether we want a quick or slow death not a reprieve from our death sentence!

      See this

      Faisal Islam‏Verified account @faisalislam

      Survation report strong backing for a referendum on accepting or rejecting the EU exit deal 50% -34%

      38% back a “hard” Brexit outside Single market and Customs Union
      24% back a “soft” Brexit inside CM & CU
      28% back staying in EU…


    • 1. MPs will want to cleanse the final decision and let the people decide given the unenviable options
      2. Question on the ballot paper should be two part
      A. Validating the UK’s status with the EU
      i UK Government should continue its departure from the EU
      ii. The UK Government should revoke Atricle 50 and remain in the EU

      B. In the event that the majority of votes are in favour of Ai, which option of exiting the EU should the UK government pursue
      i. Reject the UK/EU negotiated deal
      ii. Implement the UK/EU negotiated deal