In the 2016 referendum, London stood out as the most Remain-supporting region in Britain. Yet, despite Londoners’ widespread opposition to leaving the European Union, they are more open-minded than we might think and are anxious to make Brexit work.
New national polling by YouGov for psychological think tank NOUS this month finds that Londoners within the sample are less fatigued by Brexit discussions than other regions across the country, with only 19% of Londoners not wanting to hear our politicians talking about Brexit anymore, compared to 27% of the rest of the UK.
However, Londoners are feeling the weight of Brexit. Currently, 63% of them believe Brexit has had a negative impact on Britain, compared to a 55% national average. Four in five Londoners believe the British economy has weakened since January 2021, with 68% of them attributing Britain’s predicted economic recession to Brexit.
Londoners are also the most likely to report negative impacts on Britain’s trade with the EU post-Brexit. A majority of 54% said there had been a decline in trade with the EU, compared to 47% of the country at large, and more Londoners (68%) reported fewer goods being available in shops since Brexit.
On top of this, Londoners are experiencing the impacts on travel more acutely too. With a highly international population served by a number of airports, Londoners travel to EU countries more than people in other regions. As can then be expected, a total of 65% of residents in the capital – the highest proportion in the country – believe that travel has become more difficult post-Brexit, compared to 47% in the Midlands and Wales, the regions that report the least change in travel habits in the UK.
These negative personal experiences very likely play a role in Brexit’s deeper unpopularity in the capital, but also inform Londoners’ determination to make Brexit work.
It is clear that Londoners want change. Only 11% believe we should continue our current relationship with the EU. A clear majority, 59%, would like to revisit the terms of the Brexit deal. Contrary to stereotypes that London is out of sync with the rest of the country, some 55% of the national population also believe that the terms of the Brexit deal should be revisited in a sign of wider discontent with the situation as it stands.
Londoners are more open minded than we think about the issue, despite common assumptions that they live in a liberal bubble. They are more unsure than the people of any other region whether they identify as Leavers or Remainers, and identify less as Remainers than they did at the time of the referendum. The new Prime Minister should take note of the capital’s open willingness to work with Brexit rather than against it.
Amelia Staples works for NOUS (formerly Global Future).
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