Britons’ growing buyer’s remorse for Brexit

By | December 15, 2022

Matthew Goodwin writes:

The conventional wisdom after the two major populist revolts of 2016—the United Kingdom’s referendum vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president—was that few, if any, of their respective supporters would have a change of heart. Contrary to the classic understanding of populism as an ephemeral protest, this view insisted, the votes for Brexit and for Trump reflected a profound and enduring clash over identity.

Six years later, the argument looks less convincing. In America’s recent midterm elections, Trump Republicans clearly underperformed, and in Britain, public regret over Brexit—or “Bregret”—is emerging as a major theme in politics and national life. As the U.K. is engulfed by a wave of strikes by ambulance workers, nurses, railway workers, and others that has been dubbed a new “winter of discontent,” a larger disaffection has come into view.

When Britons are asked whether they think the vote for Brexit—a slim 52–48 majority—was right or wrong, the share of those who say it was wrong has climbed to a record high of 56 percent, while the share that says it was the right decision has fallen below a third of those polled. Considering the relative stability of Brexit enthusiasm after the landslide Conservative election win in December 2019, when Boris Johnson triumphed with the promise to “get Brexit done,” the recent decline in approval for leaving Europe is stark. Believing in Brexit has become a minority pursuit. [Continue reading…]

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