Leave voters turn their back on Johnson’s Brexit deal – report finds

After living with the UK-EU trade deal for almost a year, opinion among Brexiteers on the merits of the deal negotiated by Prime Minister is leaning from approval to disproval.


As Brexit’s true impact manifests itself, voters across the political spectrum are dissatisfied with the deal negotiated by the government.  

A new survey report conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) and whatukthinks.org, has found that it’s not just Remainers who are frustrated with the agreement reached between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the European Union.

The latest study by NatCen is one of a series of rolling surveys carried out since September 2016. The research involves interviewing more than 2,000 members of the British public via NatCen’s random probability panel.

Brexit backers turn their back on the deal

The study shows that backers of the UK’s exit from the EU are turning their back on the deal.  The research found that just 12% of people believe Britain got a good deal, marking a significant drop from the 21% who had the same view in January 2021.

The most notable finding among the research is Leave voters’ present position on Brexit. At the start of the year, 35% of Brexiteers thought Johnson had secured a good deal and 22% thought it was bad. Today, 36% are of the opinion the deal is flawed, against 22% who say it is good.

The same trend is being bucked among Remainers, with 66% believing a bad deal was struck, compared to 53% at the start of the year. 

The research was led by Sir John Curtice, senior research fellow at NatCen, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, and chief commentator on the What UK Thinks: EU and What Scotland Thinks.

Curtice explains the reasons behind the growing resentment towards the Brexit deal.

“The Brexit deal is being criticised from two directions – those opposed to the policy in principle and those who dislike the way it has been implemented in practice.

“People on the Remain side of the debate are relatively united in their dislike of an outcome whose principal objective is one that they oppose in the first place. Meanwhile, some on the Leave side feel that the UK is still tied too closely to the EU’s orbit, while others would have preferred a softer Brexit.

“And it’s those with strong views on Brexit – the partisans on both sides – who are proving most difficult for the government to satisfy. As a result, the nation is still divided over the outcome of the Brexit process,” Curtice continued.

The findings come at the end of a year marked with Brexit-induced issues, one of the most pressing being the withdrawal agreement relating to Northern Ireland, of which the UK government is trying to renegotiate parts of.

More than just “teething problems”

When Johnson announced his Brexit trade deal on December 24, 2020, he asserted it would enable British companies “to do even more business” with the European Union. The Prime Minister said it would be “prosperous and dynamic and contented”, but there would be “teething problems” as the country adjusts to life outside the EU.

Almost a year on, and the UK’s split from its single biggest trading partner is proving to be disastrous for many British exporters, leading to a rejection of Johnson’s insistence that issues are merely “teething problems.”

As Hannah Essex, executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce, said: “The difficulties exporters are facing are not just ‘teething problems.’ They are structural issues that, if they continue to go unaddressed, could lead to long term, potentially irreversible weakness in the UK export sector,” 

In October, a separate survey showed a similar sentiment among voters into the implications of Brexit. An Opinium poll for the Observer, carried out during the week of the budget, revealed by 44% of voters believe Brexit is harming the UK economy. This compared to 25% who think it is having a positive effect.

With the slogan ‘Get Brexit Done’, once tossed around with such vigour and optimism, now replaced by ‘supply chain issues’, it’s hardly surprising that Leave voters are beginning to change their tune on Brexit.

As William Keegan, the Observer’s senior economics commentator, writes:

“The evidence mounts that Brexit is an almost unmitigated disaster.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a freelance journalist and contributing editor to Left Foot Forward.

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