EU flags are waved near Elizabeth Tower, commonly called Big Ben, after protesters marched from Hyde Park to Palace of Westminster in central London during a rally calling for the UK to rejoin the EU on September 23, 2023. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A MAJORITY of Britons support rejoining the European single market, even though it would mean restoring free movement of workers from member states, according to a survey published last Wednesday (29).
The YouGov findings come as prime minister Rishi Sunak faces rising political pressure from record high levels of migration to the UK, and the issue is likely to dominate in the next general election.
Pro-Brexit campaigners pledged to “take back control” of Britain’s borders by leaving the bloc, but both regular and irregular migration, including via small boats crossing the Channel, have soared.
The polling, conducted as the fourth anniversary of Brexit approaches in January, suggested that 52 per cent of Britons believe the UK’s departure was the wrong decision.
Some 57 per cent of “remain” and “leave” voters at the 2016 Brexit referendum would now back joining the single market if it meant EU citizens having the right to live and work in the UK and vice versa.
An end to freedom of movement and tougher immigration rules have contributed to a shortage of workers in some sectors, and calls from business leaders to relax the rules.
Companies have complained about increased red tape for UK exports to the EU and have voiced frustration at repeated delays to similar border checks on EU imports, putting European firms at an advantage.
The polling suggested that more than half (53 per cent) of respondents who voted “leave” in the referendum and said they would vote Labour at the next election, would back rejoining the single market.
A total of 31 per cent were opposed.
Of “leavers” who were intending to back Sunak’s Conservatives, about the same number (54 per cent) would not want a return to the seamless trading arrangement with Europe.
Some 29 per cent would, according to the survey of 2,138 adults conducted between Friday and Sunday the previous week.
Labour, which is tipped to win the election, has run shy of committing to rejoining the single market, and faced Tory criticism for trying to mend fences with the bloc.
But YouGov political research executive Fintan Smith said with 72 per cent of respondents favoring closer trading ties, Labour could take a bolder policy stance on the single market.