By Julia Atherley and Rhodri Sheldrake Davies
With one year to go until the Brexit deadline, the Politics Editors look at the results of the Palatinate Politics poll, how far the Brexit process has come, and what is expected to happen next.
Only 37.5% of people are optimistic about the Brexit process whereas 52.5% said they were pessimistic, according to a Palatinate Politics survey.
The survey gathered 459 responses and ran from 25th – 29th March. It aimed to gather student opinion as the UK has only one year left until the Brexit deadline. The Brexit process has received both praise and criticism from across the political spectrum.
The poll revealed that 52.3% of respondents voted to Remain in the 2016 election, with 21.1% having voted to Leave. County Durham voted to Leave in the 2016 EU referendum, despite large support for Remain within the University community. Perhaps most interestingly, of the Leave voters only 17% would vote differently were the vote to be held today. 24% of original Remain voters would change their minds if given another chance. Whilst not conclusive, this could suggest a need to make the best out of what seems like a now inevitable process.
More than half of the people who took part in the survey said they felt pessimistic about Brexit. This figure contrasts the optimism of Theresa May’s message today, in which she encourages us to seize “opportunities for the future” as we move towards the Brexit deadline.
Many respondents pointed to the way in which the negotiations have been carried out as reasoning for their lack of optimism, some calling it a “disastrous process”, “a shambles” and claiming it had been “handled poorly with no plan”. Others remained positive, often citing their preference for Theresa May as the leader of the Brexit process over Jeremy Corbyn.
Some people commented on the lack of information available about the negotiations, claiming that the British public have “no idea what Brexit means” and suggesting that “those supportive of Brexit have yet to answer many key questions”. One participant said “there seems to be no cohesive decisions, ideas keep changing, and no thought is given to other EU countries”.
Overall it is clear that opinions remain divided as we look ahead to the Brexit deadline. Tensions that were brought to the surface during the referendum campaign show no sign of subsiding, at least within the student community.
Brexit, where have we got so far?
This time last year, when Theresa May announced that she would be triggering Article 50, it was met with criticism from across the board. Many staunch Brexiteers said it had come too late, whilst pro-Remain voices maintained that it was still possible to reverse the decision.
The year got off to a rocky start, with Britain’s negotiating team being called incompetent by international leaders and the Government seemingly having no clear line on the terms of a potential deal.
Theresa May’s surprise general election on the 8th of June threw the whole process into chaos, as the Government position was weakened, and the Conservatives were forced to rely on the DUP for support. The issue of Brexit, as Sir John Curtice explained in our interview with him earlier this year, threw the UK’s political climate into chaos – which only worsened the state of the negotiating process.
By October, it had seemed like negotiations were at a standstill, with voices from the EU and UK alike criticising negotiators for lacking clarity and crunching into a deadlock, as neither side seemed to be discussing the same issues. The Government’s tone switched into one of urgency. Within the UK, tensions grew as voices from across the political spectrum again criticised both sides.
However, as of December, there was a marked change in tone, with “sufficient progress” being made to move to Phase 2 of the negotiations, and issues such as citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the Irish border coming into centre-stage.
At long last, by March, as the one-year deadline loomed, the UK and EU seemed to have finally reached a sort of settlement: a guarantee for no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, guarantees for EU and UK citizens’ rights, and an agreement to push for unilateral financial services. The hard bits, we might believe, are over.
Moving forward, what can we expect?
Now the UK Government has outlined an ambitious plan for more than 70 trade deals to be set out during the 21-month transition period, which is agreed to run from 29th March 2019 to 31st December 2020. This time will allow business and other groups to prepare for new post-Brexit relations.
Similarly, we can hope for negotiations to begin on issues where the UK and EU are far more likely to see eye-to-eye, such as Security and Trade.
Brexit may mean Brexit, but we still can’t know what we’re getting out of it quite yet.
Photograph: Ed Everett via Flickr