Positives and negatives across the divide

Positives and negatives across the divide

A recent survey by Opinium requesting views on Brexit has revealed some interesting results.

Linda Middleton-Jones takes a look…

As always, surveys by reputable organisations with a significant number of respondents are worth considering – so we looked further. The survey was conducted in December of 2023, so we have up-to-date responses and data to consider.  

57% of the 2000-plus respondents indicated that the UK should remain outside the EU.

Within that majority, there were nuances as to whether we should negotiate a closer relationship, maintain the current relationship and even those who felt that we should develop a more distant relationship with the EU. Given that the current negotiations, transfers of legislation, customs controls and new UK-based rules are still developing, one wonders if there would be any governmental capacity to consider a distancing option.

53% of the sample went on to report that they disapproved of the way HM Government had handled Brexit.

We feel this reflects the overall feeling of dissatisfaction still being reported daily by people and companies, vocally and visibly. Conversations, debates, and differences of opinion are reported across all media channels leading to an overriding impression of frustration and discontent. 

Indications of this discontent are further amplified in the results with 64% of respondents thinking that Brexit has gone badly.

Just 3% thought it had gone very well.

There is no doubt that the vote of the British people to leave the EU caused and continues to cause significant challenges and confusion with new ways of working bringing change to the fore for companies that had gotten used to selling within or buying from the EU.  Having to learn how International Trade works was a steep learning curve for so many companies – and that was before the changes in regulations that were beginning to surface had emerged.  Skills to ensure compliance were necessary, new acronyms were needed, and advice and support on accessing this new market were in demand. Never had the acronym VUCA (volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous) been more apposite as in the years following the creation and implementation of the Trade & Cooperation Act.

Further questions on how Brexit had affected the ability of UK companies to import goods from the EU against goods imported from outside the EU were posited.  Again, there was a very small percentage that felt that the impact was good (10% from and 15% outside).  But when looking at those that responded to bad (nuances around quite bad and very bad), the numbers increase;

– almost three in five (57%) reporting (importing from the EU) and half (49%) (importing from outside the EU) respectively.   

We think that there would have been very little change for those importing from outside the EU.  The companies already engaged in global trade understood the rules and may well have accrued short-term benefits from the hiatus or ‘shell shock’ to traders that Brexit caused. For those who had changed from the previous free market entry to and for EU goods, it came as a shock to realise that customs procedures and regulations would be the order of the day. It does not surprise us that the majority of respondents indicated that their ability to import from the EU had been a negative experience.  As for those traders that were importing from the rest of the world – these results might indicate the difficulties being felt by conflict, natural disasters and supply chain resilience.

On importing from the EU:

Opinium then went on to drill down into the data set about the ability to import goods from the EU. They then cross-referenced responses against whether the respondent had voted Remain or Leave in the Brexit referendum.  This reveals differences in perceptions that remain.

The survey revealed that only 7% of those who voted Remain in 2016 thought that Brexit had had a good impact on the ability of UK companies to import goods from the EU –against three quarters (75%) as reporting a bad impact. 

2016 Leave voters, however, indicated differences of opinion but, not as much as might have been predicted – 12% (good impact) and 42% (bad impact).

The surprise though comes when looking at the ability of UK companies to import goods from outside the EU. 

While the Remainers show a similar pattern (8% and 66% for good and bad impacts respectively) the Leavers offer a different perception. A quarter (24%) responded that the ability to import from outside the EU was positive while a third (33%) said it was bad. 

Now this might reflect the Free Trade Agreements that the UK has signed – usually but not universally seen as a good thing.  It also might be seen as a reflection of the lack of support for international trade shows or missions.

It could even be a result of overseas perception of the British.

We think it may have been a result of the scarcity of those with knowledge of trade compliance together with the lack of procedures and processes to evidence due diligence.  Those with skills have been at a premium and there has been a significant amount of movement on the job front.  Many companies have decided to source and sell locally – sometimes to their detriment as international trade affects everyone.

In complete transparency Brexit has been good for International Trade Matters as it has for the various Institutes and organisations.  International trade advisors whether they be public sector or independent (like ours) have a huge part to play in recovery and resurgence of UK goods and services both in and outside of the UK.  We remain committed to listen to tales of woe, to offer solutions, provide procedures and work side by side with companies to raise their skills and expectations. 

We need to concentrate on leadership, on sustainable success and on international relationships as we overcome the past, current and future challenges of Brexit. 

Thanks to Opinium for a great survey and for sharing the results.