Almost half of UK voters believe that the European Union will collapse if France votes in a right-wing Government later this year that takes the country out of the EU, according to a YouGov poll conducted on behalf of BE Offices.
The survey polled a representative sample of 2060 people across a range of voting habits, age, gender, class and region.
In addition to the 49% of those polled that believed the EU would collapse in these circumstances , a further 29% felt that, although the EU would survive, there would be sweeping changes made to the organisation. Only 5% thought that the EU would survive in its present form.
As the House of Lords prepares to debate the Brexit bill for a second time later today, these results form part of a wide ranging poll that sought the views of the British electorate on the likely impact of a hard Brexit as well as people’s views of the Trump administration and its policies.
The poll demonstrates very clearly that almost four out of ten people (37%) believe a hard Brexit will have a negative effect on the UK economy with only one in five (21%) believing it will have a positive effect. A further 16% felt a hard Brexit would have neither a positive or negative effect and the remaining 25% didn’t know.
As might be expected, almost one in seven “Remainers” (69%) regarded a hard Brexit as likely to have a negative effect on the economy along with 55% of Labour voters and 54% of LibDems . While 51% of the 18-24 age category also believed that a hard Brexit would be detrimental.
The broad consensus among those who believed a hard Brexit would negatively impact the economy, said: prices and inflation would rise; we would lose manufacturing jobs as companies moved operations away from the UK and into Europe to access the single market; and, Sterling would fall as the UK struggles to conclude advantageous trade deals with other countries.
One respondent commented: “we lose access to the single market and customs union. We also have to negotiate many bilateral trade agreements, taking an unknown time to conclude.
“We may lose the interest of big businesses in investing in our country, with London potentially losing its status as a financial hub of the world. This is not helped by Theresa May’s poor handling of Brexit negotiations so far. It does not look good for our country at the moment.”
There was also genuine concern that Britain would lose its ability to bring in the necessary migrant labour to fulfil the many low-paid and unskilled jobs in sectors such as agriculture. It was also felt that it would negatively impact on Britain’s ability to attract highly skilled people.
Those believing a hard Brexit would have a positive effect on the economy generally felt, as might be expected, that we would have greater control over our economy through the freedom to negotiate trade deals with other major countries.
Freedom was a constant theme among respondents, whether it was the ability to establish our own trading partners, create our own rules and be free of perceived restrictive practices imposed by the EU.
Many thought a hard Brexit would be good for jobs and create greater opportunities for business.
As one respondent commented: “A hard Brexit will remove red-tape and allow the UK to negotiate trade deals without having them first agreed by 27 other nations. By leaving the EU there will be money saved through not paying a EU contribution and investing it in the UK.
“The EU is a failing, undemocratic and corrupt behemoth and it can only benefit the economy if we remove ourselves from it.”
Saving money was a prominent thread in people’s views on the positive impact of a hard Brexit. Some respondents regarded EU payments as little more than welfare support for poorer member states.
Interestingly, almost 6 out of 10 respondents (58%) stated they had a good understanding of what the term “hard Brexit” with less than one in three (27%) saying they had a bad understanding of the term.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly understanding was high among UKIP voters (73%) and men generally (70%). It was lowest among women (47%) and 18-24 year olds (48%). Among the older age group category (65+) almost two-thirds claimed a good understanding of what a hard Brexit meant.
People were also fairly dismissive of President Trump’s policies with 56% declaring that they were wrong for the US with only one in five (20%) believing they were good for the country. Interestingly 80% of those who voted Remain thought they were wrong for the US as opposed to only 33% of “Brexiteers” and 76% among 18-24 year olds.
When asked whether people thought Trump’s policies would be right or wrong to implement in the UK nearly two-thirds (63%) thought they would be wrong although it was even higher among “Remainers” (86%), Labour voters (79%) and 80% among 18-24 year olds.
David Saul, Managing Director of BE Offices, commented: “This survey demonstrates that perception of the EU among Britons is that it has probably reached a tipping point and a successful election campaign by the right-wing in France could topple it over the edge, or at best could force sweeping changes in its structure and powers.
“The survey, I believe, also highlights the fears held by many in the UK that a hard Brexit will have a seriously damaging impact on our economy with rising costs, higher inflation and job losses and that it may take much longer to negotiate trade deals with other countries than we think.
“On the other hand, those believing a hard Brexit will have a positive impact on our economy point to a reduction in red tape, the ending of EU payments and regaining our sovereignty as being the key issues going forward.
“However I am not sure the Government appreciates the depth of feeling in the country for the impact of a hard Brexit and all that it entails.”