As the seventh anniversary of Brexit approaches, there is growing evidence that Britons are feeling a reverse seven-year itch. According to polls, citizens of the United Kingdom (UK) are no longer sure that the Brexit divorce has brought new life, vitality, happiness, fewer immigrants and increased prosperity to King Charles’ kingdom.
Meanwhile, a large segment of Britons is angrily saying that their country was “over-flooded” by immigrants from the European Union (EU) nations, which already is causing “serious” problems to the society while these immigrants from the EU are stealing jobs and other benefits from the native British citizens. According to them, Brexit has seriously impacted Britain, for which the country will suffer for decades. But still, a large number of UK citizens are willing to return to the EU. A New Year poll for the Independent showed two-thirds wanting a new referendum, with only 25 per cent opposed.
According to the Independent, the British public has more confidence in the EU than in the UK parliament. A new survey has found a remarkable turnaround of a trend lasting decades.
Confidence in the Westminster parliament has plummeted 10 points to just 22 per cent since the Brexit referendum.
Although the popularity of the EU has lagged behind parliament among Britons since the early 1980s, confidence in Brussels has shot up seven points to 39 per cent since Brexit.
The findings came from an analysis of more than 20 countries by the Policy Institute at King’s College London (KCL) as part of the World Values Survey – one of the largest social surveys in the world.
In further evidence of Brexit regret, only 24 per cent of people said they were “happy” with Britain’s exit from the bloc. Some 49 per cent said they were unhappy about it.
Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the KCL Policy Institute, said: “Confidence in parliament has halved since 1990; we’re among the least likely of more than 20 countries in the study to have confidence in the Government”.
He added: “Our confidence in the EU has also bounced back post-Brexit, and now we’re much more likely to have confidence in it than our parliament and Government.”
Senior Tory MP David Davis told The Guardian that the change stemmed from the “whiny, unpleasant, bitchy row” over Brexit in parliament in recent years. The ex-Brexit secretary said the tabloids had stopped “kicking Brussels all the time”.
It follows comments by the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), Richard Hughes, who said the impact of Brexit on the UK economy is on the same “magnitude” as the COVID pandemic and energy price crisis.
Peter Kellner and other pollsters long ago warned that the Leave campaign won only thanks to the votes of elderly voters. So, as they shrugged off their mortal coils, the support for Brexit would wane. It was judged a cruel observation then, but Kellner appears to have been proven right. Up to the actual withdrawal from the EU in 2020, polls showed only low support of 30+ per cent for Rejoin.
The pandemic shut down this debate, but with its easing, fewer and fewer now say the 2016 decision was the right one. There was a clear surge of up to 50 per cent and above saying Brexit was a mistake in the months since Boris Johnson was removed from Downing Street by Tory MPs last summer.
Since his first campaigns against Europe, based on his beautiful fabrications in the Daily Telegraph in the 1990s, Johnson has been the Duce of populist sentiment against a partnership with Europe. The dull supermarket CEOs and comfortable bank bosses who urged a Remain vote in 2016, even when supported by ageing lions like Lord Heseltine, were no match for the exuberance and sheer audacity of the Boris boys, such as Dominic Cummings and Arron Banks. The Leavers were supported by unlimited torrents of words from the offshore-owned press but also by the Comment pages of the Guardian, where woke anti-Europeans like Owen Jones, the Anglican priest Giles Fraser and the pundit supreme Sir Simon Jenkins told the left-liberal community that leaving the EU would be a moment of joyous liberation.
But that was then. As Brexit bit and this year’s Easter holiday-makers had to wait 14 hours to transit Dover in cars and campers, while food shortages emptied supermarket shelves in a way no EU member state experienced, people told pollsters they were no longer sure Brexit was best for Britain.
So far this year, several polls have shown over 50 per cent for rejoining the EU. One in February had 56 per cent wanting to rejoin. While the BBC and the pro-Brexit press maintain their omertà on criticising the rupture with Europe, more and more businesses are speaking out.
Rishi Sunak, arriving after the premierships of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, is bringing more measured judgement to Downing Street. He can do figures unsuitable for the passion areas of Brexit.
Nigel Farage, Richard Tice and others who still support their dream now blame Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak for failing to implement a tough enough Brexit. A derisory number of MPs followed Johnson and the Ulster identity Protestants into the lobby to reject the Windsor Framework, under which London agreed to the Brussels terms for Northern Ireland remaining in the EU Single Market.
Perhaps more remarkable is the overwhelming majority of Brits who want to regain their rights to travel, work, live, study or retire on the continent without special permits or 90-day limits on staying in an EU country.
A recent Omnisis poll showed that 84 per cent supported a return to mutual free movement. EU member states handle free movement — a core pillar of the European Union going back to the 1950s when discriminating against hiring in the coal and steel communities of the Common Market on the grounds of nationality was made illegal. This is very different from the laissez-faire British approach.
But there is a word of caution. As Jacques Lafitte, a veteran Brussels watcher of Brexit, notes, these polls do not ask: “Should Britain open its borders to free movement of Europeans to live, work, study in the UK?” It is not clear that those clamouring for a return to the Single Market or free movement appreciate the iron rule of reciprocity.
According to some analysts, these ongoing polls or media reports showing the desire of Britons to return to Brexit is well-orchestrated propaganda. The reality is that member states of the European Union, and the United Kingdom are all suffering due to growing economic crises. Unemployment in Britain and EU countries will continue to intensify, while people’s lives will become much more difficult with the skyrocketing rise in prices of essentials.
It does not matter whether Britain is out of Brexit or it returns to the European Union again because the economy of Europe has been severely hit first by COVID and then by the Ukraine war. It will continue to worsen further, and European leaders are indulging in Casino Ukraine and spending billions of dollars there at the cost of their people.