The public's Brexit predictions

A major new Ipsos MORI survey conducted in partnership with the Policy Institute at King’s College London and UK in a Changing Europe reveals what the public think will happen in the Brexit negotiations, and the impact of leaving the EU on key issues over the following five years.

The public's Brexit predictions

The author(s)

  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • Gideon Skinner Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
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Key findings

  • 44% of UK adults aged 18-75 expect the UK to leave the EU in March 2019 without a deal in place, 29% expect us to leave with a deal and 7% think we will not leave the EU in March.  Remain supporters are particularly likely to think we’re heading for a ‘no deal’ Brexit, with 51% seeing this as the most likely outcome as are young people aged 18-24 (52%).  On the other hand, Conservative Leave supporters are most likely to think we’ll leave with a deal (53%).

The public's Brexit predictions

  • Only 14% of the public expect Brexit to increase their own standard of living in the next five years, with 31% expecting their standard of living to decrease.  Just under half (46%) expect their living standards to stay about the same.  The proportion of people expecting their standard of living to fall has increased from 25% in June 2016 just before the EU referendum.  41% of Labour supporters and 58% of Lib Dem supporters expect their living standards to decrease.

The public's Brexit predictions

  • Two in five people (39%) expect the UK growth rate to decrease as a result of Brexit, which is a balance of very different views between Leave and Remain supporters: 64% of Remain supporters expect Brexit to decrease growth rates, compared with only 17% of Leave supporters (38% of Leavers think growth will increase).

The public's Brexit predictions

  • Three in ten (29%) expect unemployment to increase over the next five years as a result of leaving the EU, 40% for it to remain about the same, and 21% to decrease.
  • People are split on the impact of Brexit on the quality of the NHS, with 34% expecting it to get worse.  The proportion of the public with this expectation has doubled since before the referendum vote, when only 17% thought Brexit would lead to a decline in the quality of NHS services.  Just under a quarter think the quality of the NHS will improve while a third (34%) think it will stay the same.  

The public's Brexit predictions

  • Six in ten people (60%) overall and the majority in just about every group expect immigration from the EU to decrease once we’ve left the EU, including up to 71% of Conservative Leavers and 76% of Lib Dems.  However, views are more evenly split on what will happen to numbers of immigrants from countries outside the EU: four in ten (41%) expect this to stay about the same, with 26% expecting it to increase and 22% expecting it to decrease.  
  • Very few expect exports to countries in the EU to increase in the five years following Brexit. But 52% of Conservative Leave voters think exports to EU countries will remain about the same while 68% of Remain voters overall expect them to decrease.  Just under half (46%) expect exports to countries outside the EU will increase. Leave voters are much more confident here: 60% think exports to countries outside the EU will increase.  Conservative Leave voters are the most confident, with 69% thinking they’ll increase.

The public's Brexit predictions

  • Over half (57%) expect direct investment into the UK from EU member states to decrease.  But over a third (36%) expect direct investment from countries outside the EU to increase (20% expect it to decrease and 32% think it will stay about the same).  
  • Just over half (55%) think that Brexit will make no difference to the risk of a major terrorist attack in the UK.  One in five think the risk will increase (22% - though most of these say increase ‘a little’ rather than ‘a lot’), while 10% think it will decrease the risk.

Commenting on the findings, Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos MORI said:

Over the course of 2018, the public’s confidence that the Prime Minister will achieve a good deal for Britain in the EU negotiations has fallen, and this latest data shows that expectations are low that Britain will leave the EU with a deal – especially among Remain supporters.    On the impacts of Brexit on the economy and the NHS, pessimists outnumber optimists – but there are about as many who think things will remain about the same, particularly when it comes to their own personal standard of living. One aspect though on which the public is more united is in predicting that Brexit will lead to a decrease in EU immigration – but the picture is less clear for immigration outside of the EU. But mostly, as we see our research elsewhere on Brexit, opinions are very divided, with an interaction between whether people are Leave or Remain supporters as well as their party politics.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Bobby Duffy, Director of the Policy Institute said:

There is little general optimism about the outcome of the Brexit negotiations and the ongoing impact of leaving the EU, particularly on living standards and economic growth. 
But as with other aspects of our relationship with Europe, our predictions reveal the huge divisions in the country – different groups see the future very differently, with Conservative and Leave supporters more optimistic that Brexit will have little economic impact on the UK, while reducing EU immigration.
There are, however, some signs of growing unease among the public since we last asked these questions just before the EU Referendum.  There has been an increase in the proportion of people expecting their own living standards to decline, and a doubling of the proportion expecting the quality of services from the NHS to decline, now a third of the public.

Technical Note

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 2,206 adults aged 18-75 across the United Kingdom. Interviews were conducted online between 28th September and 3rd October 2018. Data are weighted to the profile of the population.

The author(s)

  • Kully Kaur-Ballagan Ipsos Public Affairs, UK
  • Gideon Skinner Ipsos Public Affairs, UK

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