Should a final Brexit deal be put to public referendum?

Brexit Barometer shows more than half of public are in favour of any final deal being put to a public referendum.
20 August 2019
Luke Taylor

Head of Opinion Polling, Public Division, UK

Kantar's research (15th – 19th August 2019) finds that:

  • 52% of Britons say they are in favour of any final deal or agreement reached by the government being put to a public referendum (+5 vs May 2019). 29% say it shouldn’t (+1 vs May) and 19% say they ‘don’t know’ (-6)
  • Remaining in the EU/ Revoking Article 50 continues to be the most popular outcome for the public, with one in three saying this is their most favourable scenario (33%, -3 vs May 2019)
  • Leaving the European Union with ‘No Deal’ is the preferred outcome for more than two in ten Britons (23%, +1 vs May). Almost one in ten (9%, -1 vs May) want to Leave the EU with Theresa May’s deal, and 13% want Britain to leave the EU but remain in the Single Market / Customs Union (nc). More than one in five say they ‘don’t know’ (22%, +3 vs May 2019)
  • 37% (+8 vs May 2019) of Leave voters and seven in ten of Remain voters (71%, +3 vs May 2019) say they want any agreement to be put to a public vote
  • Almost half of Britons think it is ‘likely’ that the UK will leave the EU by the 31st October 2019 (46%), with 35% think it is ‘unlikely’. One in five people ‘don’t know’ (19%)
  • One in three (32%) Britons think that a No Deal Brexit would affect them negatively this year, with a further third (33%) thinking it will be neither positive or negative, and 22% believe it would affect them positively
  • More than one in three of Leave voters (36%) believe the impact on them personally would be positive by the end of this year if the UK left without a deal on October 31st. Conversely, 52% of Remain voters believe the impact would be negative
  • If a new referendum was held on the UK’s membership of the European Union, 36% of Britons say they would vote to Remain (-6 vs May 2019), 35% say they would vote to Leave (+2 vs May 2019). One in five say they wouldn’t vote (19%, +3 vs May 2019) and one in ten ‘don’t know’ (10%, +1). [See Fig. 1].

Public voting intentions

  • Conservative 42%
  • Labour 28%
  • Liberal Democrats 15%
  • The Brexit Party 5%
  • SNP 5%, Green 3%, The Independent Group for Change 1%, Other 1%, UKIP <0.5%, Plaid Cymru <0.5%

Shifts in voting intentions from Kantar’s research, combined with a reduction in the negative rating of the Government’s handling of Brexit negotiations, indicates that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hard stance towards the EU is cutting through to the public to some extent and reducing the vote share of the Brexit Party. However, the situation is very volatile, and this could easily change.

If an early General Election is called, the final result would be affected by many other factors – party manifestos, local campaigns, tactical voting and external events.

Public opinion on the effects of Brexit and the negotiations

  • Six in ten Britons (59%, -12 vs May 2019) rate the government’s handling of the Brexit negotiations as poor and 19% (+2 vs May 2019) rate their handling of the negotiations as well. This change in perception may be a result of the new Prime Minister and his appointed Cabinet being given the benefit of the doubt and a boost in how the public view their handling.
  • However, the reduction in the proportion of the people who rate the government’s handling of negotiations as ‘poor’ is twinned with an uptick in the proportion who say they don’t know, indicating the public may be waiting to see what happens
  • When asked about the impact Brexit will have on jobs, NHS care, schools, living costs and peoples’ local area, almost half of Britons (46%, +3 vs May 2019) believe that Brexit will have negative effects with no positive effects
  • 22% (-1 vs May 2019) believe Brexit will have positive effects with no negative effects [see Fig. 2]

Public preparations

  • When asked how likely are they to act ahead of the UK’s departure date from the EU, almost one in three people said they have already or are likely to reduce spending on leisure activities or eating out (31%, +5 vs May 2019)
  • Almost one in four people said they are likely to or have already stockpiled food or medicine (23%, +4 vs May 2019)
Public priorities for UK’s exit from the European Union:

According to Kantar’s August Brexit Barometer, the British public’s priorities for the UK’s exit agreement are:

  • Seven in ten say they want the UK to continue collaborating with the EU on science, research and technology initiatives (69%, -2 vs May 2019) and on security and policing (70%, -1 vs May 2019)
  • 62% of the public want British companies to have tariff-free access to the EU markets (-1 vs May 2019) while 52% want European companies to have the same tariff-free access to UK markets, including services (-3 vs May 2019)
  • 61% of Britons say they want (-2 vs May 2019) the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to remain ‘soft’ without any passport control. Whilst 22% said they ‘don’t know’ (-1) [see Fig. 3]
  • 55% (-2 vs May 2019) want the UK to draw up its own rules and regulations, even if they clash with EU rules and regulations and for there to be no further contributions to the EU budget (58%, -1 vs May 2019)
  • Over half (55%, -1 vs May 2019) of the public want unrestricted rights for UK citizens to live in the EU. Whereas 45% (+3 vs May 2019) of Britons want to deny the same unrestricted right for EU citizens to live in the UK
  • Half (52%, +1 vs May 2019) want the UK to be part of a customs union with the EU to ensure no checks on goods at UK/EU borders, including with Ireland

Methodological information

The survey data and further details on the methodological approach can be found here.

A total of 1,133 interviews were conducted online among adults living in Great Britain between 15th and 19th of August 2019. Interviews were conducted using the Kantar Research Express Online Omnibus, which uses the Kantar online access panel as its sample source.

The data was weighted to match population totals for age, gender, working status, 2017 General Election voting patterns, 2016 EU referendum voting patterns, education, region, and likelihood to vote in the next General Election. Any use of this research must cite Kantar as the source.