Red wall voters prioritise working with EU over US, poll shows

PUBLISHED: 10:29 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:29 16 June 2020

European flags fly in Parliament Square. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA.

European flags fly in Parliament Square. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Voters in ‘red wall’ seats think the UK should prioritise working with Europe over the US on trade and coronavirus, according to a new opinion poll

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70% of voters in seats which flipped from Labour to the Conservatives at the last election said they wanted the UK to prioritise working with Europe, compared to just 20% who said it should work most closely with the United States.

The analysis by focaldata for anti-Brexit group Best For Britain also found that nine in 10 so-called ‘red wall’ voters thought securing an EU trade deal was either important (33.9%) or very important (55%).

Focaldata polled more than 5,000 people across 44 so-called ‘red wall’ seats and 56 seats which changed from Labour to Conservative at last year’s election.

Best for Britain CEO Naomi Smith said: “The data is clear: so-called ‘red wall’ voters, particularly those who switched from Labour to Conservative in these key battleground seats during the last election, are ready to punish the government if it fails to fulfil its manifesto pledge to secure a trade deal with the EU.

“With the UK in recession, these voters are scared about a double whammy of coronavirus and a no-deal Brexit. That’s understandable given the increase in bureaucracy that would still be required even despite the government backtracking on its desire to implement full border checks.

“This feeling of economic vulnerability will only grow as we enter the final months of talks, meaning the pressure is on for the government to secure a trade deal by the end of the year or u-turn and extend the transition period.”

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In Bolsover, the seat previously occupied by former Labour MP Dennis Skinner and which was taken by the Conservatives on a 11.5% swing at the last election, 88.3% said they thought securing a trade deal was “important” or “very important”.

In Dudley North, taken by the Conservatives on a 15.8% swing, 87.8% said they share that opinion, just under the red wall average, whereas the figure for Workington was 89.5%.

Among those who voted Conservative at the last election, 54.8% said they thought it was “very important” that the government secured an EU trade deal, rising to 57.2% for those who switched from Labour to the Conservatives in December.

This second group of voters are thought to have a critical part to play at the next election, with each vote that returns to Labour essentially counting twice against the Conservatives.

‘Red wall’ voters were also concerned about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the cost of living. Respondents were asked to choose whether the cost of daily essentials would get better or worse if the UK “left the transition period without a trade deal”.

68.3% of ‘red wall’ voters said they thought daily essentials would be more expensive if the UK left the transition period without a deal, rising to 71.8% in Tony Blair’s former Sedgefield seat.

A majority of Leave voters (51.1%) and 2019 Conservative voters (52.6%) believed the cost of these items would increase. ‘Red wall’ women were slightly more concerned than the average for these seats, with 71% fearing the cost of daily essentials would get worse.

Most significantly, close to 60% of voters in these seats who switched from Labour to Conservative at the last election also said they thought the cost of living would rise (58.3%).

The findings come after a report for Best for Britain by the independent Social Market Foundation found that the North West and Midlands would be among the most severely exposed UK regions to the double economic hit of coronavirus and a no-deal Brexit at the end of the year.

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