Major survey shows deep confusion in UK opinion over Brexit

Extracts  from the BuzzFeed report

Many Remain voters now largely agree that Brexit should mean the UK taking full control over its borders, leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, and paying only a small “divorce bill” to the EU, according to major new academic research.

A groundbreaking project by the London School of Economics and Oxford University surveying more than 3,000 people – which BuzzFeed News has seen exclusively ahead of its official publication – reveals that when the British public are asked in detail what they want from the negotiations, there is more support for harder Brexit options because Leavers and a significant number of Remainers back them.

Remainers are also more likely to concede that outcomes that they would prefer personally would mean that the referendum result was not being respected, the study found.

The results imply relatively low levels of support for the policies that would amount to a “soft” Brexit – single market membership, ongoing EU payments, free movement, and the ECJ: 67% of respondents would prefer “no deal” to soft Brexit, while 68% would opt for hard over soft Brexit.

Finding the public’s view on what Brexit should look like has proven a tricky task for pollsters and politicians, as many of the technical issues and tradeoffs are not well understood. As an example, one poll showed 88% of the public supporting free trade with the EU post-Brexit, while 69% wanted customs checks at the border – a directly contradictory position, meaning at least 57% of respondents had said they supported both open and closed borders.

The academics tackled this by forcing respondents to choose between different plausible Brexit scenarios, then analysing the huge dataset this produced to find Leave and Remain voters’ priorities for Brexit.

The Irish border

The future of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland is one of the key early issues in the Brexit negotiation, and one that many fear could be one of the most fraught – with some warning it could even lead to a reescalation of the Troubles.

However, these fears have not broken through to most of the British public, who have very few strong views on the issue. Overall, Remain voters slightly prefer an open border, while Leave voters want both passport and customs checks.


Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London