Divided Britain: Staggering figures show majority believe Brexit has opened societal rift

Brexit: Expert analyses 'political dilemma’ from EU deal

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A 2022 report by British Future entitled “Jubilee Britain” reveals new data from the decade between the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Platinum Jubilee, examining changes within British society. The report – which draws on Focaldata polling of 2,006 British adults between February 28 and March 7, 2022 – offers insight into public opinion on life in a changing Britain including issues surrounding Brexit, more than a decade of Tory rule, the pandemic, immigration, the monarchy and British identity.

On Brexit and the subsequent societal divides, the study revealed staggering figures. 

Nearly half – 46 percent – of respondents feel that Britain is now more divided than it was 10 years ago, while just 15 percent disagree.

Writing in the report, authors  Steve Ballinger, Sunder Katwala and Heather Rolfe said: “A knife-edge referendum on a high stakes issue was always likely to divide.”

The report notes that, surprisingly, the Brexit divisions were more severe in 2019 than when Leave and Remain had originally formed in 2016. 

This is because by 2019 these “tribes” had been disagreeing “over who and what was to blame for three years of exhausting stalemate”.

In 2022, the authors wrote, while Brexit is no longer as prominent a topic in public discourse, “it is now those on the losing side who are finding it harder to let go”.

But it’s not just Remainers who have struggled to move forward – the survey also showed that  65 percent of those surveyed felt that in ten years’ time: “The UK Government will still be arguing with the EU/France over Brexit.” 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has long promised to “get Brexit done and unleash Britain’s potential”, but if this latest polling is correct, the ongoing rows between the UK and EU may rumble on long after his time in office. 

Further evidence of societal divides can be found in an Ipsos Mori poll conducted in 2021.

It surveyed 2,385 British adults and stated that: “Britain continues to be divided into distinct groups with divided views about how Brexit is going.”

The Ipsos Mori poll detailed the division and how these identities morphed further into ideological sub-categories.

It said: “Stronger Remain and Leave supporters are also both divided themselves into two groups.” 

Remain supporters are split into those who are more culturally liberal and internationalist and those who are more moderate and pragmatically motivated.

By contrast, Leave supporters are split into those who are more culturally conservative and those who are more economically right-wing, globalists.

Elsewhere, evidence shows that Brexit may have accentuated a divide within British society across societal levels including age, class, education and geographical location.

A Pew Research survey from 2019, conducted among 1,031 adults, states that those who voted Leave were on average more than likely to be male, older, have less education, have lower incomes and less likely to be from urban areas than those who had voted Remain.

And according to data from a 2021 report from the think tank UK in a changing Europe – which surveyed 1,500 British voters categorised by age – the younger generation, those aged 18-24, felt that Brexit was not a heavily divisive issue in Britain. 

Rather, it showed this was more of a concern in the older 35-44 age group.

The British Future report also looked at age groups from the last ten years.

It found: “While 18 to 24s are twice as likely to think Britain will be worse off because of Brexit, by 49 percent to 20 percent, those over 65 are twice as likely to think we will be better off, by 53 percent to 26 percent.”

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