Brexit Diaries - Week 8: Great expectations, but very little patience

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.

Expectations are sky-high among leave voters, Spencer Livermore warns
Expectations are sky-high among leave voters, Spencer Livermore warns
The events of the ten months since the referendum have done nothing to diminish the expectations of those who voted to leave the European Union – in fact quite the reverse. 

The Brexit Diaries – recording the views of 100 citizens, 48 who voted Remain and 52 who voted Leave – reveal this week that expectations for what awaits the UK on the other side of Brexit are now higher than ever.

The Government’s strategy has been to feed expectations rather than to manage them, and the results are clear to see. 

When asked what, if anything, leave voters fear about Brexit, the overwhelming answer is "nothing". 

Their hopes, though, are very much on-message: "sovereignty and the power to make our own laws"; "freedom to govern our own country once again"; "we will stand on our own two feet"; "we will regain our independence"; and "we will have complete control over how our country is run". 

Brexit is also expected to deliver improvements across the board: "I am looking forward to it. This is a fantastic opportunity to rebuild the country: more police, better hospitals, more schools and teachers."

The Government has sought to communicate much less to the 48 per cent who voted remain, and this too is evident. 

Typical comments from remain voters this week included: "I really think there is nothing good about Brexit"; "I feel it will take our country back 100 years"; "It’s going to get expensive to live"; and "We’ll be on our own without the security of the EU – while Trump’s in power in the USA we can’t rely on their support, so we could be putting ourselves in a very vulnerable position, globally".

Where the rubber will hit the road for the Government’s strategy will clearly be on immigration. Here expectations are sky high. 

When asked what level they would expect to see for immigration after Brexit, the views of leave voters are clear: "zero"; "immigration should be stopped"; "no more East European immigrants"; "as low as it can possibly go". 

If the Government believe they can meet these expectations then they have no need to be concerned. 

But if not – and given the Home Secretary’s comments that "immigration will not fall dramatically", and given that non-EU immigration alone, where the government has always had complete control, is currently double the government’s target for total immigration – meeting these expectations may be difficult, and the Government might need to start giving some thought to expectation management.

This week’s Brexit Diaries also reveal that while expectations have risen, patience is in short supply. 

Our diarists are starting to get restless for the rewards of Brexit to materialise. "I would like them to just get on with it"; "it’s taking a long time to even get started"; "I’m getting fed up with this now"; "will it ever get sorted out?"; "why is it taking so long?"; "it’s going so slowly". 

Given it feels like the night before Christmas already, the next two years are going to feel like a very long time indeed.

Spencer Livermore is a partner at BritainThinks


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