No Bregrets

Almost as soon as the referendum votes were counted people were asking for polling on whether people regretted their decision. There is still a certain audience who seem downright desperate to find polling showing that people do not, after all, want to leave the European Union (and, I suppose, a (slightly larger) audience who want to see polls showing they don’t!). I guess this is the curse of a referendum decision that takes a couple of years to actually implement.

The most straightforward way of measuring Bregret is to ask the referendum question again – how would people vote if the referendum question was asked again now. Several polls have done that:

YouGov/Eurotrack (20th-25th Oct) Remain 44%, Leave 43%
BMG (19th-24th Oct) Remain 45%, Leave 43%
YouGov/Eurotrack (21st-22nd July) Remain 43%, Leave 44%
YouGov/Eurotrack (3rd-4th July) Remain 45%, Leave 45%

All of these suggest a very small movement towards Remain, and given Leave’s lead was only four points that’s enough to flip the result in a couple of cases. However, I’d be a little cautious in reading too much into the results. All of these polls are just straight “how would you vote questions” with no attempt to account for differential turnout, when at the referendum Leave voters were more liable to turnout. If you look at the actual tables for these you’ll find there is very little movement between remain and leave, the shift is down to people who didn’t vote in the referendum claiming that in a referendum tomorrow they would vote in favour of Remain. That’s possible of course (perhaps people who assumed a Remain victory in June and didn’t bother to vote, now realising their vote really would count)… but I’m rather sceptical about people saying they’d vote in an EU referendum who didn’t bother to vote in the one we just had.

The approach alternative is to ask if people think it was the right decision and if they might change their vote.

Just after the referendum there was an poll by Ipsos MORI for Newsnight, which showed 43% of people thought Brexit was the right decision, 44% thought it was the wrong decision. Asked if they would change their mind in a new referendum, 1% of Remain voters said they would definitely or probably change their mind, 5% of Leave voters said they would definitely or probably change their mind. If those people all switched to the other side it would have just edged into a Remain lead.

In contrast YouGov have regularly asked if people think the decision to leave was right or wrong, and have tended to find slightly more people saying it was the right decision. The pattern of opinion is pretty consistent – movement between Remain and Leave is small and tends to cancel out, people who didn’t vote at all tend to split in favour of it being the wrong decision:

YouGov/Times (11th-12th Oct) – Right to Leave 45%, Wrong to Leave 44%
YouGov/Times (13th-14th Sep) – Right to Leave 46%, Wrong to Leave 43%
YouGov/Times (30th-31st Aug) – Right to Leave 47%, Wrong to Leave 44%
YouGov/Times (22nd-23rd Aug) – Right to Leave 45%, Wrong to Leave 43%
YouGov/Times (8th-9th Aug) – Right to Leave 45%, Wrong to Leave 44%
YouGov/Times (1st-2nd Aug) – Right to Leave 46%, Wrong to Leave 42%

Finally the British Election Study asked a question on whether people regretted how they voted or not. Only 1% of people who voted Remain said they regretted their vote, but 6% of people who voted Leave said they regretted their vote. Now, saying you’ve some regrets doesn’t necessarily mean that you wouldn’t, on balance, end up doing the same. For what it’s worth though, if those people who had regrets hadn’t voted the result would still have been leave; if those people had voted the opposite way it would’ve been Remain.

Looking across the board at all this polling, there is a suggestion that public opinion may have moved very slightly towards Remain, and with only a four point lead that’s enough to change the lead in some polls. However, in most cases that apparent movement isn’t people changing their minds, but is down to the opinions of those people who didn’t actually vote last time. That means if there was another referendum right now, if turnout was similar to June the result would probably be similar too.

My expectation is that, given time, we probably will see “Bregret”, simply because Brexit is going to be tested against reality while Remain isn’t. The road ahead has a lot of obstacles and some Leavers’ hopes and expections will be dashed (Remainers’ hopes and expectations of what would have happened if we’d stayed won’t, of course, face the same collision with reality). The lead at the referendum was only 4%, so it really won’t take that many people having second thoughts to flip opinion over. To those who really want to see evidence of Bregret in the polls – have a bit of patience. It will probably come in time, but the data really isn’t there to support it now.

814 Responses to “No Bregrets”

1 2 3 17
  1. AW

    Thanks for a really interesting and if I may say so fair summary.


    In case you missed my post on the last thread.

    Valerie? :-)

    Of course. Sorry to hear your father died so young. There was more to my reply but that’s the gist.

  2. I wouldn’t expect to see any move in opinion until the terms of leaving become clearer. That is a potential minefield for the government, as hopes are bound to be dashed, given the variety of views feeding into preference for Leave.

    The true test however won’t come until the actual implications of leaving the EU become clear, and that won’t be until 2021-23. If nothing much has happened, then the support for leaving (now the status quo) will be much higher. If the economy has tanked however, expect not just a change in opinions but a very unpleasant political climate.

  3. Thanks for the analysis Anthony. I just hope no-one calls for a second referendum because the polls have moved by a couple of points. That would be tedious.

  4. If there is an early election, say in March 2017 how would this work with the FTPA? Is the next GE after that in March 2022 or in May 2021?

    If so, aren’t we going to tread on the toes of the Scottish parliament yet again?

  5. I have never understood how remain can win a 2nd referendum when they had the full weight of the government/cabinet/ the PM/ the Chancellor behind them in the 1st referendum in June, and still lost.

    Presumably, under May, the whole govt. machine would be behind leave. a fortiori, leave would probably win by a larger margin.

    The 5 or 6% of leave voters who said they regretted voting as they had must have done so on present information,, for example that there was now general understanding that the UK would not receive 350m p.w. back to spend on the NHS, and that the Government would not be able to reduce immigrant to tens of thousand or to under 100k – two of the main arguments used by the Leave campaign.

  7. Alan

    FTPA sets the next UK GE as “The polling day for each subsequent parliamentary general election is to be the first Thursday in May in the fifth calendar year following that in which the polling day for the previous parliamentary general election fell.” – even if that previous election is an “early” one.

    The elections in Scotland in Wales would not seem to be affected, unless their regular pattern made them fall on the same day as a UK GE. in which case they would be held 1 year later than the UK one.

  8. @John Pilgrim

    The average voter is aware that we’re still paying money to the EU, and still experiencing free movement of people, and this won’t stop till we’ve left.

    They’ve also heard the various Labour MPs on the news saying “I’m not going to block Article 50, but I insist that we keep paying money to the EU and keep free movement of people”. The next election is going to be fun as those statements get printed on leaflets!

  9. Oldnat

    I thought so, which would make it May 2021, if the early general election fell before May 2017.

    I thought this was when the next Scottish elections were due, after changing their schedule due to a previous clash. Considering it was moved from 2020 onto five year terms to avoid this clash, pushing it out to 2022 seems like we would be messing you lot about a bit too much!

  10. I think voters will change their minds on Brexit and it will be interesting how government responds. Do they hold another referendum on the Brexit deal, with the opportunity to reject the deal and remain in the EU under existing terms ? When would such a referendum be held, given MEP elections are due in June 2019 and any deal is unlikely to be known until Spring 2019 at the earliest ?

    I think the Brexit timetable is far too tight and the article 50 negotiation period of 2 years will prove inadequate. Given that the government will not allow a hard Brexit, either they extend A.50 or they withdraw A.50. Both options are likely to mean that any Brexit deal is not voted on in Parliament until after the 2020 general election. Brexiteers will be furious, but government is responsible to the whole country.

  11. @Alan

    What is more likely to happen is that after the new Parliament is elected, they vote to completely repeal the FTPA, to restore the previous system where elections can be called at the discretion of the executive.

    That means we could in theory have another election in May 2020, a year after we’ve left the EU.

  12. R Huckle

    It’ll depend by how much people change their minds. I’m sure there will be a point where the emergency stop button gets pushed. I suspect it’d need to reach at least 65% before it’s even considered though.

    For now we’re on the roller coaster winding itself upwards and not enough people are screaming they want to get off for that to happen. By the time people realise they want to get off it might be 2023 and too late.

    They voted for it, they can enjoy the ride.

  13. R Huckle – “I think voters will change their minds on Brexit and it will be interesting how government responds”

    Have any of the Yes voters in the Indy changed their minds since 2014, despite the falling of the oil price from $110 to $46? Nope.

    Then factor in that Remain insisted we’d be in recession right now, and we’re not, we’re growing faster than the eurozone. That’s the equivalent of the Scots experiencing the oil price going from $110 to $150!

  14. Fourth successive tennis #1 is European. Getting to be a habit this!

  15. These polls underline the political tightrope which the May Government has to walk. She already has the big political disadvantage that the main agenda – Brexit – has been set for her although the state of the opposition to he run England is an advantage. She can try some diversionary initiatives, mainly in England, such as grammar schools but what happens on Brexit will be the key to her success or otherwise.

  16. Candy

    “Have any of the Yes voters in the Indy changed their minds since 2014, despite the falling of the oil price from $110 to $46? Nope”

    Showing off your ignorance about Scotland again?

    Polling tells us that some Yes voters have moved to No – although a rather higher number have switched from No to Yes.

    Whether it has anything to do with oil price, we don’t know.

  17. Human nature, the doommongering will be forgotten, everything interpreted as worse or the same as would’ve happened anyway. Grass is always greener…

  18. OldNat – “Polling tells us that some Yes voters have moved to No – although a rather higher number have switched from No to Yes.”

    And on balance it remains exactly as it was in 2014, does it not? Ergo crashing oil price and a deficit of nearly 10% of GDP made no difference.

    So why would good economic news compared to what the Remainers predicted change the minds of the Brexiters?

    P.S. Do enlighten us about whether YOU have changed your mind on Indy. You were a fervent Yesser, were you not? And despite the bad outlook for an Indy Scotland due to the oil price crash, you are still a fervent Yesser, are you not? No hardship will deter you, and good on you for that! :-)

  19. @ Candy

    UK economic performance stats have not really been affected by Brexit yet. The likely impact will be from 2017 onwards, when the reduced value of Sterling will feed into prices and inflation.

  20. R HUCKLE
    I think the Brexit timetable is far too tight and the article 50 negotiation period of 2 years will prove inadequate. Given that the government will not allow a hard Brexit, either they extend A.50 or they withdraw A.50.

    If you’re correct, May will need to ask the ECJ to rule whether or not A50 is reversible. If she won’t, Parliament should insist that they have an ECJ opinion before allowing A50 to be triggered.

    Had she done that in July before going on hols she would have been on much firmer ground than her current appeal to the Supreme Court.

  21. Candy

    People do change their minds on political issues (both ways) – even Scots! :-)

    Your attempts to divert attention from your own error by personalising the issue doesn’t work either.

    Trolls are getting too fat these days, anyway.

  22. ALAN

    Under the FTPA, if the HoC passes a motion that “This House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government” and then does not with 14 days pass a motion “This House has confidence in Her Majesty’s Government”, then there is an election. The date of the election is then decided by Royal Proclamation, but longer than 6 weeks would be unusual.

    I think the first one would pass, and everyone would go home for a fortnight. The SNP would not vote against first motion, or they would never live it down. It would then be hard, but not impossible, for the SNP to later claim that the decision was anti-Scotland.

  23. @ Barbezenzero

    According to this A.50 can be revoked if necessary

  24. Rodger

    Thank you but that wasn’t what I was asking.

  25. Barbazenzero

    “Parliament should insist that they have an ECJ opinion before allowing A50 to be triggered.”

    Agreed. Naturally, some things – like the outcome of negotiations – are unknowable before the negotiations have ended.

    However, entering negotiations without bothering to find out what the rules, that govern the negotiations, actually are would be folly of the highest order.

    Several people on this site have been active negotiators previously. I can’t imagine any of them being so foolish as not to establish what the parameters are, in advance.

  26. @OldNat

    I refer you to the polling:

    Which shows the gap between Yes and No is pretty much where it was in 2014, despite the collapse of the oil price and the deterioration of the Scottish deficit.

    Ergo people arn’t really affected by the economics – if they were the No side would be in the 60 percents by now.

  27. That should have said “where it was in the 2014 referendum”

  28. Candy

    Keep up the exercises! They’ll do you good. :-)

  29. ALAN

    Neither was it. The FTPA says that polling days will normally be on the first Thursday in May of the fifth year after the previous GE. That would man any GE in January would be a 4.5 year Parliament.

    I have always thought that the timing of Article 50/calling a GE has everything to do with how long after the expiry of the 2 years the next GE would be, and the associated calculations about how things are likely to look at that point. May might want to wait until early May for a GE, so that she has 3 years post final exit before the election occurs. Or not.

  30. R HUCKLE
    According to this A.50 can be revoked if necessary

    The Brit who drafted A50 certainly thought it was, but given that both sides in the High Court case contended that it is not, an ECJ ruling would seem to be required.

    The High Court were perfectly entitled to ask the ECJ for a ruling on that single point, but presumably did not because neither side thought it relevant. Perhaps the UK Supreme Court will find an excuse to do so.

    If it is reversible then HMG were clearly wasting the court’s time with their assertion to the contrary, since the problem of using the royal prerogative to trigger A50 would not give rise to the crown repealing law made by Parliament.

    Clearly an act satisfactory to Parliament would need to drawn up well within the two years ready to repeal those rights along with an alternative [much simpler] bill to authorise the withdrawal of A50.

    It does throw a question of the Attorney General’s competence into the works.

  31. @bbz

    Do you know who can ask the ECJ for a ruling on the reversibility of A50? Does it have to be a British court or the Government? Could, for example, the HoC Brexit Select Committee do so on behalf of the House of Commons?

    Do you know who can ask the ECJ for a ruling on the reversibility of A50?

    I’m afraid not. I do recall that the possibility of the High Court asking the ECJ directly for a ruling was mooted on some legal sites at the time of the hearings. That seems entirely logical and normal. Perhaps the Supreme Court will do it in their own defence, whether or not asked to do so by either side, before they give their judgement.

  33. There’s a slight problem with dismissing the Remain lead based on ‘some of it comes from those who did not vote last time’.

    The problem is that people get older. And as people get older they a) go from being unable to vote to being able to vote, b) go from being less likely to vote to being more likely to vote, c) eventually no longer able to vote once more. And this is an ever ongoing process.

    If the referendum was held again, then it would be with a very slightly different electorate. One that includes more younger people who did not vote last time.

  34. @ Barbazenzero

    I might be wrong by my understanding in regard to the High Court case is that A.50 could lead to a hard Brexit without Parliament having had a say. Once it was accepted principle that a PM exercising Royal Prerogative could trigger A.50 it is accepting that the PM is totally in control of events. They could do what they wanted, allowing the A.50 2 year period to run out and hard Brexit or they could revoke A.50 stopping Brexit.

    The point in Parliament being involved is that they can amend any bill of Parliament, only allowng the PM to act in certain ways and insisting that Parliament is involved in all decisions. This is good for leave supporters, as the PM has to come back to Parliament to gain approval to revoke A.50 stopping Brexit and has to also gain authorisation for any Brexit deal. It is also good for remain supporters as they have Parliament looking after the countries interests, rather than a government doing what they wanted.

  35. There might be a significant problem in showing standing to get an injunction from the ECJ on the terms of A50 before anyone has activated it.

  36. One polling regrets question I’d like to see, is how many Corbyn voters who assumed they could vote him out before the next election, now regret their vote. A protest vote is always a dangerous vote.

  37. Hireton @bbz

    “Do you know who can ask the ECJ for a ruling on the reversibility of A50?”

    If Wiki is right!!!

    we are talking about a “preliminary ruling” from the ECJ on the meaning of an aspect of EU law, and that may be asked for by any “court or tribunal [that fits certain requirements] in any of the 27 member states, if it is necessary for them to conclude a case.

    Such a preliminary ruling then becomes applicable in every court across the EU (and EFTA).

    It’s not hard to envisage how a case could be expedited through any court system, by any government, that required them to have an interpretation of irrevocability.

  38. Candy – 4.40 p.m.

    Scotland does not have a defiicit. The Scottish government spends the money it is allocated, plus that which it raises itself. It is not allowed to do otherwise.

    So no deficit.

    If you had said that the money allocated to Scotland by London was greater than the taxes raised in Scotland then I would have agreed with you – but that is a very different matter.

    Anyone who receives more than he or she earns is, by your definition, ‘in deficit’ – including all pensioners, and all who have investmnt income.

    Would you prefer the Scottish government to put the ‘additional’ money in a fund, saving it for independence? I can imagine the howls of outrage from other parts of the UK should that happen!! Or perhaps you would prefer the Scots to return the money unused?

    Surely your time would be better spent campaigning for the amount Scotland receives to be reduced, rather than continuing to peddle the lie that Scotland has a deficit,


  39. R HUCKLE @ Barbazenzero

    Fair comment, had anyone done their homework prior to the referendum itself.

    As it stands, my suggestion probably won’t fly if only because the level of competence demonstrated by HMG since the referendum has been so poor that nobody trusts them on anything.

    Trust in it is perhaps so low that if the ECJ agree that A50 may be withdrawn, the two-line Act allowing A50 to be triggered would have to be passed first, with automatic withdrawal of A50 on the last possible day defined by the ECJ.

    That withdrawal could then be repealed if HMG come up with some other solution which is agreed by Parliament.

  40. JOHN B @ Candy – 4.40 p.m.

    So no deficit.

    Quite so. A more interesting question is why both Lab & Con were so resolute in rejecting SNP proposals for FFA?

    One cannot help but wonder why successive HMGs have been so keen to keep the Treasury books secret.

    If Scotland is indeed a basket case why are they so reluctant to get shot of it?

  41. @Peter Crawford

    “I have never understood how remain can win a 2nd referendum when they had the full weight of the government/cabinet/ the PM/ the Chancellor behind them in the 1st referendum in June, and still lost.”

    I am not sure that the PM and the Chancellor were that much of an asset as a) they were clearly establishment and Brexit was in part an anti-establishment vote and b) they were committed to staying in, and getting net migration down drastically – something which anyone with half a brain could see was probably a contradiction and certainly not happening..

  42. John B

    and here i thought Nicola Sturgeon just had a whopping great mattress she’s been hiding all our money in! Call it investing in infrastructure and noone will notice!

  43. Alan

    “The Princess and the Pea” was one of Nicola’s favourite stories as a kid. :-)

  44. The clear implication of current polling is that the country is evenly split between leave and remain, on reasonable MOE.

    Whether this gives a mandate for Brexit is a moot point. However, as a committed Europhile I have reached the point where I believe the interests of the EU will be best served by the exit of the UK from the EU. This creates the odd situation where I observe, in rather detached fashion from elsewhere in the EU, the continuing debate, in the hope that the Brexiters prevail. This POV involves relinquishing concerns about the demise of the UK, but that is made easier by the increasing evidence (cf DM, Express) of the sheer unpleasantness, regrettably, of my country.

  45. @ Barbazenzero

    Your comment about confidence and trust in HMG is reason why the Brexit negotiation must be controlled by Parliament. They can send Theresa/Boris/Davis/Fox out to bat, but it should be Parliament that decides on whether their performance is acceptable and in the interests of the country. If you ever allowed a government to just use an ancient executive power which leads to an outcome Parliament has no ability to stop, then you end up in a constituitional crisis. Dangerous game using Royal Prerogative for a process like A.50 and i am surprised that this government thinks they have a legal case.

  46. Does anyone know ……

    Can an appellant to the Supreme Court deploy different arguments than they used in the High Court? – or do they have to rely on persuading the Court that the lower court judges were wrong in their interpretation of the law?

  47. Oldnat

    You mean “Our last argument was full of carp, how about this argument instead? M’lud”

    I always thought that appeals were made on points of law and not “another bite at the cherry”. If the government can show that the Justices made an error in a point of law, which otherwise should have resulted in a different outcome, it will win it’s appeal.

    R Huckle

    Taken to the extreme, Mrs. May could use royal prerogative to disband the Commons and the Lords in order to enact A50. Does anyone really think this would be reasonable?


    I sympathise, I guess this is what May meant when she talked about those left behind.

  48. Alan

    You have rephrased my question with wonderful perspicacity. :-)

  49. @oldnat

    Thanks for the info ‘re the ECJ.

    Re the SC, common sense would suggest that the appellant is appealing against the terms of the decision of the lower court rather than having an opportunity to have another go at arguing the case from scratch. If the latter is allowed the SC is in effect replacing the HCJ. But no doubt we shall.find out.

  50. Not sure what point there is these polls given that nothing has really changed since June 23rd.

    Let’s see what opinion is like in two years.

1 2 3 17