There were some remarkable polls at the end of 2023 and the start of the New Year, revealing Britain’s attitude to its new relationship with the EU. They make depressing reading for the Conservatives. Voters are not at all happy. Brexit, the party’s flagship – and one might suggest only – policy since 2016 is widely seen as a complete failure.
First out, was an Opinium poll of 2,132 voters taken between 13–15 December published by The Observer on 30 December showing the vast majority believed that Brexit has had a ‘bad impact’ on virtually everything from trade to inflation. Very few seemed to think there has been any improvements.
The following day, the campaigning group Best for Britain published details of a much larger Focaldata poll of over 10,000 respondents which reinforced the widespread sense of dissatisfaction found by Opinium:
On 4 January, YouGov released yet another poll, this time of 2,016 adults, which took as its starting point that four years after Brexit happened, attitudes to it had “soured significantly”- in effect accepting the Opinium and Focaldata polls – and asking essentially what should be done about it.
Respondents were offered four possible options. Leaving things as they are, loosening ties with the EU, rejoining the single market or rejoining the EU.
A majority (51%) supported rejoining the EU as a full member while 42% preferred joining the single market. YouGov commented on the fact that just 22% opposed the single market option but a huge 36% were unsure.
Rejoining the EU not only had the most support, it also had the least uncertainty at just 13%.
All of this is hardly an ideal platform for what Rishi Sunak confirmed yesterday will be an election year. With Labour consistently showing double-digit leads, voters clearly intend to punish the Tories, not only for Brexit but also for 14 years of austerity.
The massive election war chest the party has accumulated from wealthy donors is going to be money down the drain. It is perhaps for them another downside of Brexit.
Despatches from the downside
In the Davis Downside Dossier this week, we added 12 entries: 11 of these were downsides, with one upside.
Professor David Latchman, the vice-chancellor of the University of Birkbeck, has claimed that the “unfavourable atmosphere” created by ministers is the reason international students are pulling out of UK university courses. University of Birkbeck has seen a 10% drop in international students starting in October after many who had accepted places pulled out.
An analysis by IFF Research into the Turing scheme which replaced the EU’s Erasmus student exchange arrangements, found some applicants were forced to drop out because places were confirmed too late, while others failed to receive funding until after their return.
Four out of five universities had difficulties with the Turing application process, which was said to be overly complex, repetitive and “tedious”. Applications in the first year of the scheme fell short of the government target – just over 20,000, compared with the original aim of 35,000.
Food and wine
A chef and horticulturalist, says she is now unable to buy her favourite Italian finger limes, which produce a juice sometimes called citrus caviar, because of Brexit. Anne Wilson, a 75-year-old retired former IT worker from Manchester, claims her Sicilian supplier was forced to end his small shipments due to new fruit import restrictions and border controls introduced following the UK’s exit from the EU.
UK wine producers will now be able to sell wine in pint bottles. However, the manager of The Leaping Hare restaurant at Wyken Vineyards in Stanton, Josh Hicks, says it’s unlikely to benefit producers or consumers and could actually increase costs: “The difference between a pint-sized bottle of wine and a regular 750ml bottle is little over a medium glass of wine. For producers, adding different bottle sizes will only add to further costs.”
The board of the travel giant TUI has recommended de-listing the company from the London Stock Exchange in what CityAM describe as “yet another blow to the embattled bourse”. TUI propose to retain its listing in Frankfurt. In a statement the board said, “significant liquidity migration from England to Germany in recent years, with more than 75 per cent of trading in TUI shares taking place directly via the German share register”.
As if to reinforce the point, Stephane Boujnah, the CEO of Euronext, the European Stock Exchange, has said that London’s capital markets have been left “isolated” following Brexit while exchanges on the continent have consolidated and strengthened their position.
The aggregate market capitalisation of companies on Euronext were almost at €6.3tn, twice that of London. Meanwhile, daily trading volumes of between €10–12bn were also twice that of London on some days.
Agriculture and horticulture
Farmers are said to be unhappy after figures from Defra showed an underspend of £110mn in 2021/22 and £117mn in 2022/23, meaning £227mn of promised funds have not been spent. National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters said the underspend was unacceptable, adding that: “Farmers were promised a seamless transition to [the post-Brexit payment scheme] Elms. With 50% of basic payment scheme payments cut, farmers in England have no idea where that money is and what it has been spent on.”
Dutch horticulturalists have called for a delay until 2025 in the introduction of new post-Brexit UK border checks scheduled to start this month. Hendrik Jan Kloosterboer, of Anthos, a Dutch trade association representing the nursery plants and flower bulb industry, said there was “great concern” about shifting physical inspections of delicate plants to port border posts and the delays this would cause.
An economist at Ulster University says continued access to the EU single market comes at the price of the Irish Sea border and the “unravelling” of Northern Ireland’s integrated position in the UK economy.
A spokesperson for the DUP said the party wants continued EU market access alongside a restored UK internal market. Esmond Birnie, a senior economist at the University of Ulster told The News Letter that it’s understandable politicians may want to claim we can have our cake and eat it – but it comes at the price of a border in the Irish Sea.
Gibraltar and citizens’ rights
Negotiations between the EU and the UK over a deal with respect to Gibraltar are said to be deadlocked over future rules relating to the policing of passport control at Gibraltar airport.
Meanwhile, Spanish police have started to check the paperwork of all non-EU nationals, including Gibraltarians with red identity cards according to The Daily Express. The checks have cause “massive queues” to build up at Gibraltar’s land border with Spain.
A 65-year-old former interior designer from Leeds, who voted for Brexit “on impulse”, has said he will now have to sell one of his two holiday homes in Portugal because of it. David Walker, admitted that he “voted on impulse”.
The pensioner, who bought the two properties in 2013, used to spend up to nine months in Portugal before the post-Brexit travel restrictions applied, banning Britons from staying in an EU state for more than 90 in any 180-day period.
There was one or perhaps two upsides on the wine front. As of 1 January, UK wine producers will be allowed to sell ‘piquette’, a French term which sometimes refers to a very simple wine often of low quality. It’s described by The Oxford Companion to Wine as a “wine-like beverage”.
Piquette cannot legally be sold in the EU. The term has also been used as a nickname for French wine of low quality. The government has also removed the need for imported wines to have an importer address on the label, which it says reduces administrative burdens for businesses.