Polling shows Brexit was a rejection of the EU’s closed-minded institutions – not internationalism or globalisation

Polling shows Brexit was a rejection of the EU’s closed-minded institutions – not internationalism or globalisation

The narrative that Brexit has sounded the death knell of globalisation, heralding the rise of a new age of populism as countries turn in on themselves and reject open markets and international trade, has been a well-worn one since the referendum in June.

The persistence of this glib caricature of Brexit is much to the exasperation of a great many Leavers, who campaigned for an open, outward-looking Brexit to free the UK from an outdated and inefficient regional bloc and expand British horizons to encompass the whole world in an ever-more globalised and interconnected 21st Century.

And the publication of new polling today, conducted by YouGov for Demos as part of Demos’ ongoing study, Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself, confounds this negative narrative once again – essentially confirming that the British public have no problem with globalisation itself, they just don’t trust the EU.

More than double the number of people in the UK believed that increased globalisation had been positive than those who believed that it had had a negative effect, whether on Europe as a whole (58% to 24%), the UK as a whole (59% to 25%), their local areas (52% to 24%) or their own lives (55% to 20%).

Generally speaking, this pattern was repeated across the other EU countries included in the survey – Germany, Poland, Spain and Sweden – with the notable exception of France, which was much more evenly split between those with positive and negative opinions of globalisation.

Over half of Britons surveyed said they had low trust in the European Parliament and Commission, with a quarter indicating no trust at all in either (26% and 24% respectively). By comparison, 60% had at least a medium level of trust in the British Parliament and Government, with under 15% reporting no trust at all.

And despite the oft-repeated claims that Brexit was fundamentally fuelled by the rise of nativism, a rejection of immigration, or the British “island mentality”, the research shows that British people display the second highest net approval of society becoming more ethnically and religiously diverse, behind Spain and ahead of Sweden. Conversely, France, Poland and Germany actually showed a strong net disapproval of increased diversity in their societies.

There is also little solace for continuity Remainers attempting to spin the “buyer’s remorse” narrative, with over half of British respondents (excluding don’t knows) still favouring leaving the European Union, despite the softer option to “stay in the EU and try to reduce the EU’s powers” also being amongst the options (although it should be noted that the fieldwork for the polling concluded in early September).

Twelve months ago, “free trade deals” barely registered in the British political lexicon at all. Now, they rank as one of the most frequently discussed political topics around, with an entire Government Department created purely for the purpose of negotiating them.

The effect of this has been contagious around the world, with dozens of countries expressing their eagerness to pursue a free trade deal with the UK since the vote in June. Indeed, the whole issue of free trade has been propelled squarely back to the forefront of the global policy agenda, as well as domestically within the UK. Far from signalling the high-water mark of globalisation, the Brexit vote has helped to reignite enthusiasm for it far beyond the shores of Britain itself.

As the EU founders in its attempts to break out of its interminable cycle of navel-gazing and internal firefighting, with the ongoing debacle of the EU’s flagship trade deal with Canada once again exposing the myth that bigger is somehow better when it comes to negotiating trade deals, Brexit Britain looks better poised than ever to set the new standard as an open, dynamic and truly globalised economy – with the wholehearted support of its citizens.

Methodology: Polling was conducted by YouGov for Demos between 23rd August and 7th September 2016. YouGov surveyed adults (aged 18+) in six countries: 1661 GB/ 1001 French/ 2125 German/ 1011 Polish/ 1000 Spanish/ 1007 Swedish adults. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of adults aged 18+ on age, gender and region. The YouGov panels (GB, France, Germany and Sweden) also took account of other factors such as: last political vote, education, political attention The non-YouGov panels (Poland and Spain) were sampled by age, gender and region and weighted by these variables in addition to last political vote and education post-fieldwork. All respondents were asked a set of common questions. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council.