As the March 2019 Brexit deadline for leaving the EU approaches, more British people are starting to think that their vote to leave Europe was a mistake. Pantheon Macroeconomics analyst Samuel Tombs sent his clients this brutal chart yesterday, of a YouGov tracking poll taken repeatedly since the June 2016 referendum. Voters were asked, "In hindsight, was UK right or wrong to vote to leave the EU?"
The results show that those who still want to leave the EU may now be in the minority:
Tombs argues that voters have become less concerned about the EU and immigration since summer 2016 because they are becoming more anxious about the economy and their own household expenses. He thinks Theresa May's government dare not risk angering consumers with a "hard Brexit" — the most damaging scenario, economically — and will thus be forced into an accommodative deal giving Britain a long transition out of the EU, with many of the Single Market benefits remaining intact for years to come:
"Some argue that support for Mrs. May will plunge when the electorate realises that a transition deal will require Britain to make further large financial contributions to the EU and to accept freedom of movement rules. But the public's attitudes towards Brexit have changed since last year's vote. YouGov has asked voters every month since the referendum whether they think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the EU. Last week, 46% said Britain was wrong to leave, exceeding the 42% who still supported the leave vote by the largest margin yet. In addition, the proportion of people saying that controlling immigration should be the government's priority has declined to just 11%, less than half the level seen at the time of Brexit vote, when it was voters' top concern."
This is a contrarian view, obviously. Prime Minister May is dependent on hardline Brexiteers inside the Conservative party to hold her government together. And the government appears to have won no concessions from Brussels in the Article 50 negotiations that would prevent hard Brexit.
Tombs is worth listening to, however, because he was the analyst who correctly predicted — months before it happened — that May would lose parliamentary seats rather than gain them in the June 2017 general election.