Study finds almost half of Remain voters do not support EU freedom of movement

Anti-Brexit demonstrators campaign opposite the Houses of Parliament in London. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire.

Anti-Brexit demonstrators campaign opposite the Houses of Parliament in London. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Almost half of all people who voted for the UK to Remain in the European Union appear to disagree with the spirit of the EU's freedom of movement rules, a new study has found.

48% of Remain voters were in favour of having EU citizens apply to come to Britain rather than under existing provisions. That number almost doubles among Leave voters to 82% with two-thirds of voters overall support the idea.

But the headline figures have been been dropping since 2016 when 74% of voters felt there should be an application process in place.

The findings, reported in the latest annual survey of British attitudes to politics by the National Centre for Social Research (NCRS), also found as many as 58% said it should be "relatively easy nor relatively difficult" for people from France to come to Britain. That figures remained steady for people from Poland (58%), Pakistan (55%), and Australia (53%).

While 80% believe doctors should be a high priority, only 18% say the same of bankers. And while just 19% believe hotel cleaners should have priority, as many as 60% feel that care workers should be a priority on the immigration system.


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More than half (55%) believe that potential migrants should not have to earn more than £15,000 to live in the UK.

The study also showed the public still remains split on the impact of Brexit. 51% believe Britain's economy will be worse off as a result of Brexit while the same number think the EU has undermined Britain's ability to make its own laws.

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Sir John Curtice, senior research fellow at the NCSR and politics professor at the University of Strathclyde, said: “Our research challenges some of the myths that surround the Brexit debate.

"Voters did react adversely to the Brexit stalemate – but this reaction was to be found just as much among Remain voters as Leave supporters, while the experience seems to have stimulated rather than depressed voters’ engagement in politics.”

Researchers found that trust in government has also tumbled to its lowest point in 40 years.

In 2016, 22% of participants said they trusted government "most of the time" or "just about always". By 2019, the dropped to 15% with twice as many people, 34%, saying they "almost never" trust the government.

Surprisingly, 80% want Britain to follow EU rules on flight compensation and 69% on banning roaming charges on mobile phones.

Nearly nine in ten (88%) say that the UK should not allow hormone treated beef, three quarters (75%) say the same about chlorinated chicken, while over half (59%) wish to maintain the ban on GM crops.

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