What sort of Brexit?

I’ll be taking a break from the blog over the next week while I have a summer rest (I may pop in if something interesting happens, but I’m going to try not to), but before I go a quick pointer to something I wrote over on the YouGov website on what the public think about Brexit.

The type of Brexit the public want is a tricky subject to poll. It will obviously be one of the dominant issues in British politics over the next few years, yet we also know so little of it. We don’t yet know with any confidence what the government’s aims or negotiating position will be, nor what other European countries will be willing to offer (or what they will want in return). Public opinion will be one of the limitations upon the government’s negotiations so it’s certainly important, but it’s hard to measure it at this stage when people have so little information about what’s on offer.

We tried to explore the issue in two ways. The first was to ask whether people thought various things would be acceptable trade-offs in exchange for continued British free trade with the EU. That suggests that the public would accept having to follow some EU trade rules, could be persuaded on immigration (33% think freedom of movement is desirable anyway, 19% a price worth paying, 33% a deal-breaker), but would object to Britain making a financial contribution to the EU (41% think it would be fine or a price worth paying, 44% think it would be a deal-breaker).

However, taking things individually risks being a little misleading. When it comes to it a deal will be a package of measures and will be judged as a whole. On that basis, I think the questions that present people with various scenarios and ask them to judge them as a whole are more enlightening.

By 44% to 32% people thought it would be bad for Britain if we simply left and had no trade deal with the remainder of the EU. A Norway-type deal, with Britain joining EFTA and maintaining free trade with EU in exchange for free-movement, a financial contribution and following trade rules is seen a little less negatively (35% good, 38% bad)… but perhaps more importantly, by 42% to 32% people would see it as not seen as honouring the result of the referendum. Finally, we asked about a Canada-type deal, where there is no freedom of movement or financial contribution, but only a limited free trade deal that excludes services. That was seen as both honouring the result of the referendum, and as positive for Britain.

Of course negotiations haven’t yet started and the actual deals that end upon on the table may very well differ from these examples. I suspect views are not very deeply held yet, and people may very well change their minds when deals start to take shape and politicians and the media start to debate them. The public’s starting point, however, seems to be that a limited trade deal is both the best solution and a solution that respects the referendum result. We shall see how that changes once the negotiations actually begin.

The full tabs are on the website here.


A wrote a few weeks ago that in the past the boost enjoyed by a Prime Minister taking over mid-term has often only lasted a month or so. The latest YouGov poll suggests that Theresa May’s honeymoon is following the same pattern and has now started to fade. Topline figures are CON 38%, LAB 31%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%. It’s still showing a healthy Tory lead, but not the towering double-digit leads we’ve seen in the last few polls. This is, of course, just a single poll and we should wait to see if other polls shown the same trend, but it’s the first sign of the May honeymoon beginning to wane (tabs here)

UPDATE: TNS also have new voting intention figures out and they have the Tories still enjoying a double-digit lead. Topline figures are CON 39%, LAB 26%, LD 10%, UKIP 11%, GRN 7% (tabs are here). Fieldwork was over the weekend, so a little older than the Mon-Tues YouGov data, but not by much. A couple of interesting methodological notes here – looking at TNS’s tables, it looks like they are including the names of the party leaders in their voting intention question (just the GB leaders in the English question, but also the Scottish and Welsh leaders in their respective areas). Based on the tables, they are also asking preferred party on the economy and preferred leader before asking voting intention.


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YouGov’s latest voting intention figures in the Times this morning are CON 42%(+2), LAB 28%(nc), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 12%(-1), GRN 3%(-1). The changes since last week are not significant in themselves, but push the Conservatives to a fourteen point lead, the largest from YouGov since November 2009.

It looks very much as if Theresa May is still enjoying a honeymoon as Tory leader (though the Tories may also be being aided by the disarray in the Labour party – it is impossible to disentangle one potential cause from the other).

Full tabs are here.


If Labour splits…

Over on the YouGov website I’ve written about an experiment we did looking at how the votes might fall in the event that the Labour party did split (the tabs are here). As I say in the article, this needs a thousand caveats – in what proportions has Labour split? Which party is the main opposition with all the publicity that implies? Who is the leader of the anti-Corbyn Labour party, and what sort of policies are they following? How did the split happen? Respondents don’t know, so this can only be a straw in the wind.

The important things to take away are these:

One – there is a sizeable chunk of the Labour vote who are brand loyalists, in the event of a split they would keep on voting for Labour, regardless of whether the left has split away or the right has split away. Just as the faction that is left controlling the Labour party will get the party’s property and assets, they’ll also get that base loyalist vote. Looking at this poll, it seems to be about 28% of the current Labour vote (so about 8% of the national vote)

Two – a lot of Labour voters would go with the left if the Corbyn was somehow ousted and his supporters left. A smaller group of current Labour voters would go with the right if they left, but they’d pick up more support from don’t knows, current Lib Dems and so on. A Labour splinter group of either side would start with around-about 13-14% (again, there are a thousand caveats to this, so don’t take that as set in stone).

Three – the sum total of the support which the two rival Labour parties would be slightly more than the current Labour party (between them they’d get about 34%, compared to Labour’s current polling figures that are around or just under 30%). Under a proportional voting system this might be a good thing. Under First Past the Post this would likely be disastrous for them, splitting the Labour vote and allowing the Conservatives (or UKIP, or whoever) to gain more seats from them. Exactly how bad it would be we cannot tell without knowing how their votes would be distributed geographically, whether individual Labour MPs would be able to retain the Labour vote in their own constituencies. It is likely to be pretty nasty though.

Finally, given the purpose of the exercise was to see what proportion of Labour voters would stick with the “Labour brand” in the event of a party split, we were faced with the problem of what to call the splitters in each scenario. We wouldn’t call them the “anti-Corbyn Labour party” or “Corbyn Labour party” or whatever as the whole point is that they would NOT be the Labour party, we had to give them a new made-up name. But what? In the end we tried it out with various different names to try and cancel out any effect from choosing a compelling or duff name – “Momentum”, “People’s Party”, “Moderates”, “Progress”, “Radicals”, “Social Democrats” – none of the names seemed to make much difference, whatever we called it, the splitters got around 13-15%.


YouGov released a new Scottish poll last night, their first poll on Scottish Independence since the EU referendum. Voting intention in another Independence referendum stands at YES 47%(+1), NO 53%(-1). Changes are from May and don’t suggest any significant difference from before the EU referendum (tabs here).

There were several polls before the European referendum suggesting that a Brexit vote would push a majority of Scots towards supporting independence, but people are not necessarily good judges of how they would respond to hypothetical situations.

On the weekend straight after after the EU referendum there were snap Scottish polls from Panelbase and Survation that had suggested a majority in favour of independence. That may be down to methodological differences, or may simply be down to timing – one can easily imagine that a poll taken in the immediate aftermath of the unexpected EU result would produce different results to one taken a month later when the news has sunk in (and indeed, that we might well see different results once British exit has been negotiated and its full impact is clear to the Scottish electorate)