Britons lose confidence in Great Britain’s position and influence in the world

Just under half (49%) of Britons believe that Britain is a force for good in the world in our new poll for the EU | UK Forum.

The author(s)

  • Kelly Beaver Managing Director, Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
Get in touch

As we near the end of the Brexit transition period, an Ipsos MORI poll looking at the future of Britain’s relationship with the European Union finds just under half of Britons (49%) believe that Britain is a force for good in the world, down 10 points since April 2019. The poll was conducted for the EU | UK Forum.

The research also shows that while 41% of Britons say we should punch above our weight in world affairs (little change from last year), 38% believe that Britain should stop pretending it is an important power in the world (up five points).  Despite this, the public are still more likely to say that Britain should increase its influence around the world than reduce it (by 36% to 16%; 35% believe it should stay as it is).

What is Britain’s role in the world? | Ipsos MORI

There is still a divide between those who voted Leave and those who voted Remain in the EU Referendum in 2016

2016 Leave voters are more positive about Britain’s role in the world compared to Remain voters | Ipsos MORI

Europe remains Britain’s most important relationship according to four in ten of public, with double the number of people choosing Europe over either the Commonwealth or the United States (each chosen by two in ten).  However, even though four in five think maintaining a close relationship with the European Union is important despite Brexit, only 39% of people now think that is likely, down 13 points since April 2019.

fewer than two in five think a close relationship between Britain and the EU is likely – down from a majority last year

Labour and Remain voters are more pessimistic about whether a close relationship will happen - Ipsos MORI

The top priority for Britain’s relationship with the EU is striking a trade agreement with 40% of people choosing it as one of their top priorities. The next most popular - all picked by around one in four - were working with the EU to prevent and detect crime and terrorism, working with the EU to coordinate our COVID-19 response and working with the EU to reduce illegal immigration into Britain.  Immigration is the top priority for Leave voters (mentioned by 43%), while trade (47%), co-ordinating the response to COVID-19 and protecting the environment (both 30%) are relatively more important to Remainers.

A trade agreement with the EU is the top priority for Britons | Ipsos MORI

Kelly Beaver, Managing Director of Public Affairs at Ipsos MORI said:

With the Brexit negotiations reaching a peak as we approach the end of the transition period, optimism about a future close relationship with Europe has fallen, despite the widespread desire to achieve that close relationship.  It is clear that the public’s primary concern is securing a trade deal with the EU and so many will be watching how this develops in the coming weeks.  More broadly, while concerns are growing about Britain’s role in the world, still only a minority want to see us step back from the global stage.

The poll was done for the new EU-UK Forum whose chairman, Paul Adamson, says:

The polling shows that the vast majority of people think it is important for the UK to keep a close relationship with the EU despite Brexit and only a minority wants to see the UK stepping back from the global stage. Since Brexit is a process not a final destination, the EU-UK Forum is being launched to facilitate and nurture constructive and informed dialogue between the UK and the EU.

Technical note

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,068 British adults aged 16-75. Interviews were conducted online from 10th to 14th September, 2020. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

The author(s)

  • Kelly Beaver Managing Director, Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs

More insights about Culture

Society