Young people in the EU see the UK as less attractive since Brexit vote

by Ray Clancy on December 26, 2016

Young people in some countries in Europe believe that the UK is less attractive since its decision to leave the European Union, but it in the rest of the world it is seen as having a growing reputation, a new poll has found.

Initial results of the survey of nearly 40,000 people aged between 18 and 34 years carried out for the British Council by Ipsos MORI show some significant negative shifts in the EU countries towards the UK’s attractiveness as well as its people and government, but there were positive reactions from nations outside the bloc.

europe-uk-european-unionSome 36% of people in EU countries said Brexit had had a negative impact on the UK’s overall attractiveness as a country compared to 17% who said positive. However, in Commonwealth nations some 33% saw Brexit as having a positive impact on overall attractiveness compared to 20% negative.

The figures for the rest of the G20 were 35% positive and 17% negative. The UK’s overall rank for attractiveness remained high, indeed fourth in the world when considering tourism, studying, arts and culture, making personal contacts, and doing business and trade.

The survey also found that 41% of EU nations said that the vote had had a negative impact on their trust in the UK government with 16% positive. In Commonwealth countries it was 29% and 21% and in the rest 31% and 20%.

Reflecting on the results, the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, is calling for an ‘Open Brexit’ in which the UK seeks to maintain and step up its people to people connections with other European nations and beyond.

It says that this would include continued ease of movement for students, academics and creative professionals; increased cultural, educational and scientific partnership, connections and research and enhanced investment into the UK’s cultural and educational connections with countries globally.

The British Council believes that cultural relations is vital to the UK’s long term standing across the globe and that the EU referendum result and subsequent response to it must be used as an opportunity to strengthen cultural and educational connections with the rest of the world.

‘As the UK comes to reposition itself on the world stage, our reputation matters more than ever. We need to address the more negative opinions young people in Europe now have whilst making the most of the positive opinions elsewhere,’ said Ciaran Devan, chief executive of the British Council.

‘We know cultural exchange builds trust. Staying active on the global stage will pave the way for the renewed alliances and trading deals that the UK will be seeking across the globe. Leaving the EU in a way that maintains relationships with the societies of Europe, and that strengthens these partnerships around the world, will be essential,’ he explained.

‘An Open Brexit can use these connections to forge new bonds globally, as well as continue the centuries of cooperation with the nations of Europe in science, education, business and the arts,’ he added.

However, when asked about the impact of Brexit on plans to study in the UK some 30% of EU respondents said they were less likely to do so while 5% said they were more likely. In Commonwealth countries it was 16% and 15% and in the other countries 17% and 14%.

Regarding the impact of Brexit on plans to do business in the UK, some 32% of EU respondents said they were less likely to do so and 6% were more likely while in both Commonwealth countries and in the rest of the G20 it was 17% and 15%.

‘One event alone, even if viewed negatively by people abroad, is not enough to permanently dent the overall attractiveness and reputation of a well-regarded country like the UK,’ said Mona Lotten of the British Council Insight team which led the survey.

‘But our national debate and the manner in which we leave the EU are being scrutinised by the rest of the world. We must now invest more in our cultural and educational connections in Europe and across the globe to ensure the UK maintains and grows its position on the world stage,’ she added.

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