A recent YouGov poll made bleak reading for those still invested in the Brexit project. Only nine percent of people said that leaving the EU has been a success so far, with 62% saying it’s been ‘more of a failure’. Those are brutal numbers for Brexit. But what do they really tell us?
One thing they tell us is that Brexit has failed, and I don’t think anyone can say otherwise now (although several will try). Even Nigel Farage admits it. The strange thing about these polling figures is that they exist in a Britain where both major nationwide parties are pro-Brexit. Even the Lib Dems don’t like talking about it much. No frontline politicians – in England at least – are arguing that Brexit was a mistake. And yet, that’s what the people already believe.
However, some of these figures should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s worth digging a little deeper to see what the numbers might be telling us about how long Brexit is going to last.
To start with, as you’d expect, Remain voters overwhelmingly think Brexit has been a failure (although 3% think it’s been success – I’d love to speak to those people). Meanwhile, 37% of Leave voters think it has been a failure, with only 20% thinking it’s been a success (35% say it’s been neither). If I were a leading Brexiter, it’s those Leave voter numbers I’d be worried about. Only 20% of Leave voters thinking Brexit has been a success is a disaster for the project, at least long term.
There’s a weird set of numbers in the poll I want to highlight: 75% of Leavers think that “Brexit had the potential to be a success but the implementation of it by this and/or previous governments made it a fail” and 14% of Leave voters agree with the statement, “Brexit was always going to be a failure, and there was nothing any government could do to make it a success.” That’s interesting to me. As is the fact that the inverse appears to be true: 16% of Remain voters agree that Brexit had some potential, but the Tories screwed it up.
The statistic to watch
So around 33% of the electorate think that Brexit can still be saved in some way. This is the main number I think Rejoiners should pay attention to. It suggests that there is a significant chunk of the population, mostly made up of people who voted Leave in 2016 but not exclusively, who want to give Brexit another chance. This is the number to watch over the next two years – it should slowly go down as people from this cohort give up on Brexit ever coming good. How quickly it does will probably tell us more about how soon we can rejoin the European Union than any other single factor.
This is because when we have the next referendum on the European question, it has to be an absolute no-brainer. The number of people who think that Brexit could be made a success of with the right government in place – currently now 1 out of every 3 voters – would have to be less than 10%. The vast majority of the population has to be in no doubt about Brexit’s failure, its inability to be a success no matter what happens. This is something we’re still a way away from as it stands.
There are two things I would take from these numbers if I were a Tory strategist. One is that, in the near future, clinging onto Brexit is going to be a politically silly move for them. In fact, at some point soon, they are going to have to figure out a way to have Brexit not be their fault. It isn’t clear how they are going to pull that one off, particularly as I’m sure no one at CCHQ is even trying yet.
The other thing to note for the Tories is that the 9% of people who think Brexit has been a success probably indicates the size of the GB News watching National Conservative crowd. I don’t think it’s much larger than this, despite many on the right’s delusions that they represent more than half of the country. If the Conservatives lose the next election, which seems likely, they might want to consider whether wasting at least part of the next parliament farting around with Suella Braverman as leader and leaning into this 9% cohort, further alienating large chunks of potential supporters, is a good idea. It’s certainly not for me to tell them what to do, but for once I would suggest they listen to Nigel Farage. As he says, Brexit has failed. If the Tories want to avoid existential wipe-out like the Liberal Party, they better start thinking seriously about some of this stuff.
A version of this article was first published in This week in Brexitland, a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support Nick Tyrone’s work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Find Nick Tyrone on Substack : https://nicktyrone.substack.com/ and on Twitter : @NicholasTyrone
There will be another National Rejoin EU march on Saturday 23 September 2023.