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New TBI polling reveals that voters support a new approach to the UK’s future relationship with the European Union


Press Release22nd June 2023

  • New TBI polling undertaken for the seventh anniversary of the EU referendum reveals that 53 per cent of all voters think the UK was “wrong” to leave the EU, and 78 per cent would support a closer relationship in the future

  • TBI proposes a new 10-point plan for “a new strategic partnership” between the UK and the EU, including voluntary alignment to EU rules on goods and future renegotiation of the current Trade and Cooperation Agreement

  • Today’s report has been published as part of TBI’s wide-ranging Future of Britain initiative which includes a major conference in London in July.

On the seventh anniversary of the EU referendum, new polling by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) reveals that voters support a new approach to the UK’s relationship with the EU.

In an exclusive Deltapoll, 53 per cent of Britons today think the country was “wrong” to leave the EU while less than one-in-three – 34 per cent – believe the decision was the right one. This shift is attributable partly to the fact that almost one-in-five Britons – 18 per cent – who voted Leave in 2016 think their decision was wrong, and partly to the views of a younger and more pro-European generation who did not vote at the time but are now entering the electorate.

Voters were asked about their preferred relationship with the EU over 10-15 years and presented with more options than the binary “rejoin” or “stay out”.

Four-in-five Britons (78 per cent) think that the UK should have a closer relationship with the EU in the future. This includes 43 per cent who would like to see the UK re-join the EU, 13 per cent who would prefer to be back in the single market but not join the EU and 22 per cent who support a closer relationship than the UK has with the EU today – although they prefer for this to be achieve from outside either the union or the single market.

The polling is included in a new paper Moving Forward: The Path to a Better Post-Brexit Relationship Between the UK and the EU' by Anton Spisak and Christos Tsoulakis which also includes a new 10-point agenda for improving the future relationship with the EU.

Recommendations include:

  1. Committing to voluntary alignment with EU regulations on goods, including product rules and food-safety standards, with a view to facilitating negotiations with the EU on mutual recognition of conformity assessment, and regulatory equivalence of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.

  2. Maintaining regulatory autonomy and flexibility only in those areas where there are opportunities for enhancing the UK’s global competitiveness and for pursuing regulatory innovation. Additionally, establish a new EU-UK Trade and Regulatory Cooperation Council to facilitate cooperation where the UK and EU’s regulatory approaches may diverge, for example on emerging technologies.

  3. Linking the emissions-trading systems of the UK and the EU to reduce costs of energy trading and avoid any future carbon border taxes.

  4. Agreeing preferential arrangements on improved mobility for business professionals and a new reciprocal exchange scheme for young people.

  5. Providing an upfront commitment to the EU that the UK will maintain at least the same level of domestic-standards protections on food safety, the environment and workers’ rights as are found within the EU.

  6. Deepening the existing security partnership to advance cooperation on law enforcement, criminal justice and broader related issues, such as illegal migration.

  7. Establishing a new “strategic pillar” within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), to include a joint framework on foreign policy, defence and security as well as a new leaders-level EU-UK summit to discuss strategic-policy issues.

  8. Committing to a comprehensive consultation with domestic businesses on the effectiveness of the TCA in preparation for the review process, which is due to start in 2026.

  9. Developing new landmark legislation – a “Future of Regulation Bill”– to set a clear future direction for the UK’s regulatory model following on from Brexit, which offers guidance to regulators on how best to support growth and innovation, allows UK ministers to align voluntarily to other jurisdictions, including the EU where appropriate, and commits to maintaining at least the same level of protections within UK law as are found within the EU.

  10. Engaging with the EU on the need to improve the relationship gradually – first by rebuilding trust and confidence in the political relationship and then by using the TCA review process as an opportunity to put forward the case for amending aspects of the current agreement through separate new negotiations.

TBI Head of Political Leadership Anton Spisak 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.”

In the report the authors also argue that the economic impact of Brexit has played a part in shifting public opinion, writing:

“When assessing the performance of the UK economy since the 2016 referendum, it is evident that it has done worse than any other G7 economy, including the EU27. Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the UK has grown the slowest among G7 economies since 2016. While this grim performance cannot be fully laid at the door of the decision to leave the EU, Brexit is the only major factor that distinguishes the UK from other countries in this comparative set. This is consistent with other estimates suggesting the UK is 5.5 per cent poorer today than it would have been had it stayed in the EU.”

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