British people want to remain in the EU single market after Brexit

by Ray Clancy on May 23, 2017

The decision by the UK to leave the European Union is still causing divisions with the Brexit process creating anxiety and resentment, according to new research.

People want Britain to remain part of the single European market and believe that if skilled people from EU countries have a job then they should be allowed to work and love in the country.

There is a broad consensus that the UK should remain in the single European market even although politicians in the EU have stated this is only possible if the freedom of movement for workers is retained while the British Government has said it will seek to reduce numbers coming from the EU.

The research by Professor Catherine Barnard and Dr Amy Ludlow from the law department at the University of Cambridge gathered the views of hundreds of people across the East of England through a series of debates and workshops in schools, community centres and even a prison, as well as gathering views in streets and town squares.

This fieldwork was conducted in locations ranging from the strongly pro-Brexit, including the Lincolnshire town of Boston where the highest Leave vote at 75% was recorded, to Remain strongholds such as the city of Cambridge itself, which voted 73.8% to stay.

The researchers found that when the public were asked to indicate preferences on the big issues of Brexit, many participants wanted full Single Market access with no free movement or payment to the EU.

However, when people were presented with so called hard Brexit options, including non-membership of the Single Market, they recognised the need for compromise, and reached an overall consensus that a deal closer to the EEA ‘Norway model’ might be best, at least in the short term.

‘The European Economic Area option was consistently seen by Leave and Remain voters alike to be an acceptable compromise that allows limits to freedom of movement and reduces the UK’s financial contribution to the EU. People wanted full access to trade in goods and services with the EU,’ said Barnard.

‘There was an almost universal desire among the study’s participants for EU citizens who are economically active or want to study in the UK to be able to continue to come,’ she added.

The research also found that people on both sides of the debate expressed regret about the sense of division caused by Brexit. Some also reported feeling embarrassed or awkward in their relationships with EU nationals. There was also significant anxiety among participants about what might come next.

‘We found anxiety, but also resentment. Many young people, including those in prominent Leave voting areas, expressed anger at the referendum, and a result they felt they would be living with for the rest of their lives,’ Barnard explained.

The researchers also found a serious, often fundamental, lack of knowledge about the EU. Many people struggled to articulate specific examples of the EU’s impact on their lives beyond infamous ‘euro myths’ such as the banning of bendy bananas. Many said they didn’t understand what they were voting for.

The most commonly cited example of a positive EU impact was no mobile phone roaming charges. Some young people also mentioned the arrival of high street brands such as Spanish company Zara.

In general, however, Barnard and Ludlow found that it was easier for people who voted Leave to provide examples of how they felt the EU had interfered too much than it was for Remain voters to give concrete examples of the EU’s benefit.

‘A key reason many people gave for voting Remain was inertia, that they saw no good reason to change the status quo. Leave voters could more often give a range of reasons for their vote, from immigration and a perceived erosion of British identity to the promise of additional healthcare funding,’ Ludlow said.

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