BritainThinks Brexit Diaries, Week 1: Voters start the year with a warning to the Government

PRWeek has partnered with insight and strategy consultancy BritainThinks in a unique project to take the temperature of both leave and remain voters in the run-up to triggering Article 50 and beginning the UK's exit from the EU.

Neither leavers or remainers are happy with the Government's handling of Brexit, warns Deborah Mattinson
Neither leavers or remainers are happy with the Government's handling of Brexit, warns Deborah Mattinson
"When I heard we had ‘gone Brexit’ I felt like England had won the World Cup!" Brian, in a Harlow focus group, articulated the joy that many leavers felt last summer. His team had won.

By contrast, Caro from Leamington Spa was devastated: "I don’t know my country any more", highlighting the deep divisions exposed by the EU Referendum and its fallout.  

Polling shows that we feel that Britain is more divided that ever – and that more than half of us believe we are losing out.

That’s why BritainThinks has set up the "Brexit Diaries": 100 citizens – 52 ‘leavers’ and 48 ‘remainers’ – from across the country. They will feed back their thoughts and feelings from now until the triggering of Article 50 in March.

We will gauge their responses to the debate, their reactions to specific events, and evaluate the likely implications for brands and corporate communications.

This week, at the start of a new year, we have focused on our diarists’ expectations – their hopes and fears for what Brexit will bring in 2017. Their responses show that this division continues – intriguingly, our leavers’ and remainers’ responses are the mirror image of the each other.

Remainers feel optimistic about "me and my family" but pessimistic about "Britain as a whole", while leavers feel optimistic about the country, but pessimistic for their own families. 

Leavers believe Brexit will bring lower taxes and stricter immigration controls with no harm to the economy, while remainers are more likely to fear a loss of access to the single market, with "another recession due to Brexit". 

There is little sense, yet, that remainers have come to terms with the referendum result, with one diarist hoping that in 2017 "we wake up from this madness and common sense is restored".

The diarists unite, however, around a very clear warning for the Government. Despite the stark differences between remain and leave diarists about the outcome of Brexit, they are as one about the process of Brexit – and their views are far from positive.

One remainer commented: "I don’t think anyone knows what is going to happen and what our country might look like – and the Government doesn’t have a clue how to handle this".

Surprisingly, leave diarists were equally negative: "This seems to be an excuse for those in charge to do nothing and blame everything on Brexit". "Someone better start asking serious questions, as the will of the people has to be exercised and so far it hasn’t." 

There is also a warning for the Prime Minister personally. Her handling of the Brexit process was criticised by leave and remain diarists alike. Our remain diarists described her as indecisive, clueless, struggling and unconfident. Leavers were equally unimpressed, describing her as incompetent, biased, reactionary, and gullible.

The Government will hope views of their handling of Brexit improve significantly in the weeks ahead.

Deborah Mattinson is a partner at BritainThinks

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