A recent BMG poll, conducted on behalf of the Independent, reveals that a majority of Brits are unclear about the Government’s plans for Brexit. As Theresa May prepares to deliver a major speech outlining the Government’s stance next month, the exclusive survey shows that very few say they believe the Government has a clear plan in various areas, including trade, immigration, the Irish Border and EU citizens’ rights.
The poll, conducted between 6th and 9th February, asked a representative sample of 1507 GB adults to consider a series of different areas of the UK’s withdrawal negotiations and whether the Government’s plans are “clear or unclear”.
Asked about the Government’s “overall plans for Brexit”, a total of 74% received the Brexit Strategy as ambiguous: “not very”, 35%; “not at all”, 39%. Meanwhile, just 17% felt the Government have been clear as to their wider Brexit strategy: “very”, 3%: “somewhat”, 14%. A further 9% answered don’t know.
Turning to specific areas of the Government Brexit policy, around three in four Brits described the Government’s plans for trade (74%) and immigration (75%), the two defining issues of the Brexit negotiations, as unclear. Ambiguity drop slightly with respect to the government’s plans for the Irish borer (71%), and on the issue of EU citizen’s rights (62%).
Should Theresa May be worried by these numbers?
During and subsequent to the General Election, Theresa May and her cabinet have been quick to insist that only the Conservatives offer a “clear plan for Brexit”. So, should Conservative strategists be worried that the public do not appear to concur?
As the sitting Government responsible for our exit from the EU, the extent to which the public are clear on the Government’s Brexit stance are certainly low, especially when you consider that it is now almost a year since Article 50 was triggered. Indeed, a closer look at the data reveals that the even Conservative supporters are unclear as to the Government’s plans; 71% of those that reported voting Conservative in last year’s General Election believe the Government’s overall strategy is either “not very clear” (45%) or “not clear at all” (26%).
However, is also worth noting that recent polling conducted by BMG on behalf of Left Foot Forward reveals that while the Conservative’s Brexit plans are viewed as unclear by a significant majority of Brits, the public are even less clear on Labour’s Brexit policies.
Moreover, in contrast to other areas of Government policy, the negotiations present a particularly difficult communications challenge for the Government. Theresa May can be clear as she wants on her Brexit demands, but these positions can quite easily be contradicted by the EU side, as we recently witnessed with Michel Barnier’s pronouncements on the notion of a UK-EU transition arrangement.
Finally, whilst levels of clarity are certainly low, in many ways it is hardly surprising that much of the public are unclear on the Government’s Brexit strategy. When examining public opinion polling, it is sometimes easy to forget when that while political enthusiasts may spend hours following every twist and turn of the Brexit negotiations, the reality is that most voters will not be paying close attention to the minutia of the Government’s Brexit stance.
What will matter more is the extent to which the public view the Government as competent negotiators capable of getting a good Brexit deal. Indeed, despite not feeling that the Government’s policies are clear, BMG’s polling for the Independent last month showed that perceptions towards the state of the negotiations have actually improved since October, although a clear majority still believe the negotiations are going badly.
An article based on these polling results, released by the Independent, can be found here.
Methodology, fieldwork dates, and a full breakdown of these results can be found here.
For a more detailed breakdown of results from this poll, or any other results from our polling series, please get in touch by email or phone.
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Robert Struthers – Senior Research Executive