LONDON — Few things are likely to change the minds of the British public on Brexit — and the Irish border almost certainly isnt one of them.
While the debate in Westminster, Brussels and Dublin is now almost solely focused on efforts to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, most U.K. citizens appear largely apathetic. According to an exclusive poll for POLITICO by the consultancy Hanbury Strategy, they are far more concerned about the possible effect Brexit will have on prices in the shops.
The data suggests that some potential negative outcomes of Brexit are more likely than others to make voters change their minds. And the responses of Leave supporters to the poll indicate they are particularly resistant to having a change of heart if things get rough — whatever the outcomes.
Presented with a list of possible consequences of Brexit, 35 percent of Leave voters said prices going up in shops would be likely to change their opinion — the highest of any potential negative outcome. In second place, 32 percent of Leavers said staff shortages in the NHS could make them think again.
But less than 22 percent of these voters said that the creation of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would shift their stance on Brexit, while 42 percent said that it was unlikely to.
The figures are based on a poll of more than 3,000 people, including 1,236 Leave voters, carried out between October 29 and November 2, which was weighted to be representative of the U.K. population.
Notably, no single negative scenario — not a major recession (27.5 percent), millions of job losses (29 percent), food shortages (28 percent) or medicine shortages (30 percent) — is likely to prompt a majority of Leavers to change their mind.
Overall, respondents were much more positive about the long-term outlook for the U.K. economy after Brexit, but with some significant concerns — even among Leave voters — about the short-term impact.
Asked whether Brexit would have a positive or negative impact on the economy, 45 percent said that the weeks immediately after Brexit would be negative and only 26 percent thought the opposite (the rest expect a neutral impact). Even among Leave voters, 26 percent expect the impact weeks after Brexit to be negative for the economy.
However, 38 percent of people believe that a year after Brexit the U.K. will doing better economically. The exact same number believe things will have gotten worse.
Ten years down the line, 48 percent of people believe that Brexits economic legacy will look positive, compared to just 26.5 percent who think the effect will still be negative.
All that though depends on the U.K. government getting a divorce deal in the short term. Amid continuing uncertainty that Theresa May will be able to secure a Withdrawal Agreement that will satisfy the U.K. parliament, respondents were asked to choose from a range of options for next steps should MPs reject Mays plan.
Reflecting the continuing Leave/Remain split in U.K. opinion, the most popular options were to leave without a deal (34 percent) and stay in the EU (26 percent). Eighteen percent back the opposition Labour Partys preferred option of a general election.
Given this range of options, only 9 percent said they want a second referendum on EU membership and only 8 percent back a referendum where the options would be Mays deal or no deal. Six and a half percent went for none of the above.
However, when asked the second referendum question in a different way — “When the negotiations with the EU are over, would you support or oppose a public vote on the outcome of the negotiation?” — 43 percent support the idea, 35 percent oppose and 22 percent dont know.