Sin­gle mar­ket ac­cess is worth trade-off – polls

The Guardian - - NATIONAL BREXIT - Dan Roberts Brexit pol­icy ed­i­tor

A ma­jor­ity of Brexit sup­port­ers would be happy to swap Euro­pean free move­ment for sin­gle mar­ket ac­cess, ac­cord­ing to two stud­ies that sug­gest ways for Bri­tain to pull back from the brink in ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Amid calls for the gov­ern­ment to loosen its op­po­si­tion to free move­ment to pro­tect the econ­omy when Bri­tain leaves the EU, the re­search shows com­pro­mise would re­sult in far less pop­u­lar back­lash than is com­monly as­sumed. Cam­paign­ers against hard Brexit claim it also vin­di­cates their new slo­gan “no Brexit is bet­ter than a bad Brexit”.

In a pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished poll con­ducted by YouGov three weeks af­ter the gen­eral elec­tion, 1,600 adults were asked how im­por­tant they thought it was to re­duce immigration from the EU.

Framed as an iso­lated is­sue, the study con­firmed pub­lic opin­ion was still deeply di­vided a year on from the Brexit ref­er­en­dum: 72% of leave vot­ers rated immigration ei­ther as very im­por­tant or the most im­por­tant is­sue in the talks, while 74% of re­main vot­ers ranked it less im­por­tant or not im­por­tant at all.

How­ever, when they were asked to con­sider free move­ment as a trade-off for sin­gle mar­ket ac­cess – a prin­ci­ple that was de­scribed last week as “in­di­vis­i­ble” by the EU’s chief ne­go­tia­tor, Michel Barnier – Bri­tish vot­ers ap­pear far more prag­matic, and united.

Leave vot­ers would be evenly split if the gov­ern­ment tried to keep full ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket in ex­change for al­low­ing a ver­sion of free move­ment that lim­ited wel­fare ben­e­fits for the newly ar­rived. Twice as many vot­ers would be sat­is­fied with this op­tion as not, even though it goes no fur­ther than the deal struck by David Cameron be­fore the ref­er­en­dum.

But sup­port for a trade-off soars when vot­ers are of­fered the op­tion of other lim­i­ta­tions on free move­ment that are used by some coun­tries in the sin­gle mar­ket. Asked to con­sider a sys­tem where EU mi­grants were sent home if they did not find work, 55% of leave vot­ers said they would be sat­is­fied with this, ver­sus only 25% who would be un­happy. There was slightly less sup­port for an “emer­gency brake” op­tion to con­trol surges in immigration.

Best For Bri­tain, a pres­sure group op­posed to hard Brexit, which com­mis­sioned the re­search, said the re­sult proved it was wrong to as­sume the ref­er­en­dum vote meant Bri­tain wished to ban free move­ment what­ever the cost.

“Our polling shows that a huge ma­jor­ity of peo­ple across the coun­try sup­port free­dom of move­ment if they too can keep their own rights to live, work and study abroad,” said Eloise Todd, its chief ex­ec­u­tive. “The pic­ture is much more nu­anced than the gov­ern­ment has por­trayed, with clear sup­port for some lim­i­ta­tions on free­dom of move­ment that are al­ready within the gov­ern­ment’s con­trol.”

A sep­a­rate study by re­searchers at King’s Col­lege Lon­don, Rand Europe and Cam­bridge Univer­sity found lit­tle ap­petite for the gov­ern­ment’s “no deal is bet­ter than a bad deal” ap­proach to the talks, and vot­ers much keener to com­pro­mise.

“Our re­search is one of the most rig­or­ous as­sess­ments to date of what the pub­lic wants from Brexit, and it clearly shows that the Bri­tish peo­ple do not wish to head over a cliff edge and leave the EU on World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion rules – they want a proper deal,” said Jonathan Grant, from King’s Col­lege Lon­don. “The Bri­tish pub­lic are so­phis­ti­cated enough to un­der­stand that they can’t ‘have their cake and eat it’, and will need to make and ac­cept com­pro­mises to reach a deal.”

The team also found that sup­posed red-lines on immigration and leav­ing the Euro­pean court of jus­tice were far less im­por­tant to vot­ers than the gov­ern­ment.

“While our re­sults do show a de­sire to con­trol move­ment of peo­ple to some ex­tent, we find that this stems from a con­cern about man­ag­ing de­mand for pub­lic ser­vices, rather than from want­ing to limit free­dom of move­ment per se,” wrote the team, led by Char­lene Rohr of Rand.

“Our anal­y­sis in­di­cated that, on av­er­age, re­spon­dents would pre­fer a fu­ture re­la­tion­ship in which the UK is able to make and in­ter­pret all laws it­self, but this was con­sid­ered less im­por­tant than main­tain­ing free trade or be­ing able to ne­go­ti­ate new trade deals in­de­pen­dently.”

Polls also show over­all sup­port for Brexit dip­ping sharply as talks de­te­ri­o­rate, lead­ing some cam­paign­ers to ar­gue that the gov­ern­ment must in­vert its “no deal is bet­ter than a bad deal” slo­gan.

“It’s in­creas­ingly clear that no Brexit is bet­ter than a bad Brexit: no one voted to be­come poorer or have their rights re­duced,” said Todd. “The gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing the ‘ex­act same ben­e­fits’ out of Brexit for the UK and its peo­ple – that means guar­an­tee­ing cit­i­zens’ rights as they stand, and right now the gov­ern­ment is fail­ing on that mea­sure by its own stan­dards.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.