U.K. Still Deeply Split on Brexit Five Years After Referendum

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Five years on from the knife-edge Brexit referendum, the U.K. remains deeply divided over leaving the European Union, a study found -- though a repeat vote would yield a narrow preference for staying in the bloc.

If polled again, 82% of people would vote the same way as they did in June 2016, according to a study by published Tuesday by the National Centre for Social Research written by political scientist John Curtice. Britain voted by 52%-48% to leave the EU in the referendum.

The study, based on 12 surveys with a random sample of 2,000 adults between September 2016 and January 2021, also found that if the referendum were to be held again today, Remain would win by 53%-47%. But if the question was framed as whether to rejoin the EU, staying out would win by 52%-48%.

The findings show Prime Minister Boris Johnson still has much to do to convince Remain voters of the merits of quitting the bloc, following a topsy-turvy period since the referendum that rattled financial markets and trade. The U.K.’s relations with the EU have become increasingly testy since the divorce was completed late last year, marked by tensions over Northern Ireland, fishing rights and access for financial services.

“Britain is still more or less evenly divided on the issue, just as it was five years ago,” Curtice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said in a statement. “Although few Leave voters regret their decision, equally few Remain voters have been persuaded that Brexit is a good idea after all.”

Johnson played a leading role in the campaign to leave the EU and is now seeking to deliver on the promises. The government is hiring an official to identify post-Brexit opportunities and is pursuing trade deals with countries including the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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