We polled Remain voters — this is what they told us

We can't rely on a 48% strategy for Brexit

None of us who wanted to stay in the European Union need reminding that we lost the Referendum back in June. But in the months since then, many of us looking to maintain a progressive approach to immigration have clung to the hope of a 48% strategy for Brexit – galvanising and building on the support of close to half the population to secure Britain’s reputation as an open, inclusive nation.

Our newly released polling of Remain voters now poses an enormous challenge to that assumption.

It reveals a striking lack of agreement among that 48%, particularly on immigration and free movement of EU citizens.

It suggests that in fact, many Remain voters share attitudes more commonly associated with Leave voters. Over half are in favour of a cap on migrants from Europe and are looking for stronger border controls.

What that means, of course, is that 48% of the country are not in favour of the status quo on immigration.

And it is exactly these concerns that Paul Nuttall, UKIP’s newly elected leader, aims to tap into as the voice of patriotic Britain”.

Those of us committed to working for an open, generous, inclusive approach to immigration policy are, therefore, going to have to campaign hard to change people’s minds. We cannot take a single person or group of people for granted.

Fortunately, our polling also suggests some ways in which that campaign might be led.

Image: Charles Hutchins

Across the country, regardless of how people voted in June, people are united in their top priorities for government – economic prosperity, healthcare, and a world-leading education system.

Closing our borders and retreating from the world stage will not give people the change they’re looking for.

Any of us looking to heal the deep divisions in our society need to reach out to those who feel let down and abandoned by successive governments. If we start with the reality of people’s daily lives we can start to build the case for a wholly new kind of economy and start also to explain that immigration is not the cause of the problems people face.

It is an enormous challenge but a clear one. The urgent task now is to come together and build consensus around a new economy: an economy that meets the everyday concerns of communities up and down the country. That is the only way to guarantee Britain’s international reputation as an open, inclusive nation. If we don’t, we risk losing the debate on immigration for good.

What do we know about Remain voters?

1. The economy mattered most – but immigration wasn’t far behind

95% of Remain voters considered the economy an important issue ahead of voting in June, with 86% also citing Britain’s public services. But 65% considered immigration as a factor when weighing up their decision.

2. Remain voters are deeply uneasy about immigration

Our polling revealed inconsistent views on immigration among Remain voters. 62% support free movement as part of any new relationship between the UK and EU, but 56% also support increased border controls and a cap on European migrants.

3. There is strong support for integration

A majority of Remain voters – even among those less concerned by immigration as an issue – reject the idea of multiculturalism in the form of parallel lives, instead believing migrants should integrate into British culture.

4. A third of Remain voters think cutting immigration will help public services

Though a majority – 45% — believe cutting immigration is bad for public services.

5. Only one in five Remain voters list the EU as a top priority for Theresa May’s government

The majority are instead more concerned about the NHS, economic growth, and education.

6. Half of Remain voters would ideally reverse the referendum result

Two-fifths want the original Brexit vote respected.

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