A major new Ipsos survey across 16 countries provides an insight into how major countries have reacted to Brexit, and what comes next for Britain and the EU. The survey, among online adults aged under 65 in in Belgium, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden and seven non-European countries (Canada, US, Japan, Russia, India, Australia and South Africa) provides our first measure of international public opinion.
Reactions to Brexit
There is significant concern about Brexit, within Europe in particular:
- 58% in EU countries think it was the wrong decision for the EU, 55% think it was the wrong decision for Britain and 50% think it was the wrong decision for their own country. The Polish (58%), Spanish and Swedish (both 55%) are particularly likely to think it’s a bad decision for their own country.
- Countries outside the EU are generally less concerned – and most notably, a majority of those in Russia (54%) think it was the right decision for Britain: this is actually significantly higher than Britons who think it was the right decision (only 38%).
- 39% of people in EU countries say they are sad to see Britain leave, while 13% say they’re happy. Among other countries, the Swedes are the most likely to be sad to see Britain go (48%), while the French are the least likely to be sad (25%).
- Brexit is much more likely to have made people worried about the future than hopeful: 46% in the EU say they are more worried, only 15% less worried. Again the Swedes are most likely to be more worried (53%) while the French are least likely (31%).
Impact of the vote on UK and the EU – and the domino effect
There are similar concerns about the impact of Brexit:
- 53% in the nine EU countries think that Brexit will have a negative impact on the EU’s economy, 54% think Brexit will make the EU weaker, and 47% that it will reduce the EU’s influence on the world stage.
- But there is a wide range of views, with 64% in Poland and Britain expecting the EU to be weaker, compared with only 37% in France and 43% in Germany.
- There are similar levels of concern among countries outside the EU, with a range of findings for different countries: for example, 69% in Japan think Brexit will weaken the EU’s economy, compared with just 35% in India.
- The threat of a “domino effect” of other countries following Britain seems to have receded slightly: overall 41% in EU countries expect other countries to follow, down from 48% in our pre-EU Referendum survey. This is despite a large increase in Britons thinking others will follow them (from 42% pre-Brexit, to 60% now).
- There is however a slight increase in the proportion expecting the EU to be less integrated by 2020: now 33% in these nine EU countries think the EU will have fewer powers in the future, and 10% think it will have disappeared altogether by 2020.
- 58% in the 9 EU countries think Brexit will have a negative effect on the UK’s economy – but this ranges widely across different countries: 70% in Germany think it will be bad for the UK economy, compared with only 43% in Italy.
- Reflecting that pattern, Italians are the most positive about the overall impact on Britain: 41% say it will make the UK weaker, but 34% say stronger (64% in Germany and Spain, on the other hand, say the vote will weaken the UK). Views are even more positive outside the EU: Russia and India in particular are more likely to say the UK will be stronger (47% and 44%) than weaker (17% and 36%). The US is evenly split, with 32% saying the UK will be weaker, but 33% saying the UK will be stronger.
Not surprisingly, Britons have a different view on how favourable Brexit terms should be:
- 56% of Britons think the EU should offer favourable terms, compared with 30% across EU countries as a whole. France is least likely to say the UK should be offered favourable terms at just 19%, compared with 39% saying the terms should be unfavourable.
- Countries outside the EU generally want to see more favourable terms, probably with one eye on the wider economic impact of a weakened UK: for example, 52% in South Africa and 51% in India say the terms should be favourable.
Backlash against Britain?
There is no sign of a concerted boycott of Britain or British goods – but there are some worrying findings for the UK economy:
- 26% across the 8 EU countries say they are less likely to visit the UK on holiday, ranging up to 37% of Italians saying they are less likely to visit.
- Similarly, 27% say they are less likely to buy British goods or services, with again Italy most likely to say they are less likely to buy British at 43%.
- British tourists are still likely to be widely welcomed - although 16% across the EU countries say they are less likely to now – and a similar proportion (17%) say they are less likely to consume British culture from TV, films, books or music.
Commenting on the findings, Bobby Duffy, Managing Director, Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute said:
“The UK’s vote to leave the EU was a shock across the continent and beyond, and this survey shows it’s still something that many are coming to terms with. But there is not wholesale panic – in fact fears of a “domino effect” seem to be receding. There is, however, no doubt that the majority in Europe see it is a worrying outcome, one that brings risks for the UK, the EU and their own country. But the survey also shows there is no one opinion on this in the EU and beyond. There are plenty who see this as an opportunity as much as a challenge. The terms of the UK’s exit, and how the economy performs as it goes it alone will be watched incredibly carefully across the EU and beyond. The UK will fight for a deal that suits them – but they’ll also have to watch public opinion across the EU, as it could have a direct impact on the UK economy. There seems to be little sign of outright antagonism from the EU public, but a minority already say they may avoid British goods and visits to the country. Divorce is hard, and the UK already has a reputation as an awkward partner – a backlash among the public in the EU is the last thing the UK economy can afford.”
12,525 interviews were conducted between June 24th – July 8th 2016 among adults aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries. The survey was conducted in 16 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
The facts may have changed on Brexit - but people’s minds have not
Reflecting the national vote in the 2016 referendum, voters in Bedford split almost the same way, with 51.8% voting to leave the EU. Two years on, we joined the BBC Radio 4 Today programme to ask local Bedford residents what they have to say on the matter now.