The future of the left since 1884

The public reject a distant relationship with Europe – Fabian Society/FEPS research

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer calls for a broader Brexit debate.


Press release

New Fabian Society-FEPS research suggests the public is ready to back a close relationship with the EU after Brexit. Just 4 per cent of adults in Great Britain say they want a ‘distant and cold’ relationship with the EU after Britain leaves the union, which is the inevitable consequence of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Detailed YouGov polling for the Fabian Society and FEPS’s new book Beyond Brexit reveals that:

  • People don’t want a distant relationship with the EU: just 4 per cent of adults want a ‘distant and cold’ relationship with the EU after Brexit, the inevitable consequence of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. 87 per cent of people support either a ‘practical and neutral’ or a ‘close and warm’ future relationship.
  • People aren’t convinced that Brexit will bring more benefits in the long term: The Fabian research tested whether people expect the benefits of Brexit to be greater in 2044 compared to 2024. Two different groups were asked about the impact of Brexit after either 5 years or 25 years. The results to the two questions were almost identical, indicating that public opinion does not support politicians who suggest short-term pain will lead to long-term gain.
  • ‘Leave’ arguments remain potent: the public’s top priorities as the UK leaves the EU are ‘Leave’ issues – immigration and control of laws – and most people believe Brexit will deliver positive impacts in these areas (eg 59 per cent of people believe Brexit will have a positive impact on control of laws by 2044).
  • But re-joining the EU is a possibility: More people want to keep open the option of one day re-joining the EU than want never to consider the idea (45 per cent to 41 per cent). And although 52 per cent of adults say they don’t feel European, 61 per cent say that Britain has a lot in common with its European neighbours.

Beyond Brexit also includes a warning from Labour’s Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer that key aspects of Britain’s future after Brexit are being ignored as Westminster fixates on the nuance of the negotiations.

Calling the narrow Brexit debate ‘a source of great frustration’, Starmer joins other leading Labour figures including Nia Griffith, Wes Streeting, Lisa Nandy and Rachel Reeves to debate how Labour can break free of its tactical stasis and set the country’s future direction.

Beyond Brexit examines Britain’s future after the negotiations are over. In the chapters from the politicians:

  • Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary argues that a strong Brexit deal must come alongside a compelling vision for the future and a radical social and economic programme
  • Nia Griffith, shadow Defence secretary says that after Brexit Britain must step-up and use its influence and capabilities on the world stage
  • Wes Streeting sets out how Labour can bring the country back together around a politics that is patriotic, democratic and open to the world
  • Rachel Reeves says the Brexit vote represented a popular rejection of our current economic model, and argues that the left must construct a new political economy which focuses on people’s everyday lives
  • Lisa Nandy argues that the left should reject the view that immigration and strong communities are at odds

Commenting on publication of Beyond Brexit, Keir Starmer said:

“Labour’s clear that we need a final Brexit deal that protects jobs, the economy and delivers a close future relationship with the EU.

However, the details of the final deal are just one side of the Brexit process. The country will not forgive us if we do not also address the inequalities and injustices that were exposed by the referendum campaign.

For too long the urgent need to transform our economy and our politics has been drowned out by a narrow focus on the technicalities of the negotiations. We need a good Brexit deal, but we also need a radical and transformative Labour government.

The Fabians’ report shows that the left is engaging with the issues and challenges ahead. And their research shows that this must come alongside a close relationship with the EU.”

Andrew Harrop, General Secretary of the Fabian Society said:

“Politicians who wish Britain was staying in the EU still need to plan for our future outside it. This report sets the technicalities of the negotiations to one side and asks what sort of country we want to be and how we should work with the EU.

Only 4 per cent of British adults want a cold, distant relationship with Europe so Labour politicians need to prove there is an alternative to the sour divorce of the Brexiters.”



  1. Contact: Rabyah Khan, media and communications manager at the Fabian Society
    0207 227 4906 | 07888861096 | 
  2. Beyond Brexit: the left’s agenda for the UK and EU is available here.
  3. Beyond Brexit: the left’s agenda for the UK and EU is jointly published by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) and the Fabian Society. It is edited by Olivia Bailey (Fabian Society deputy general secretary) with a Foreword by Keir Starmer QC MP.
  4. This report represents not the collective views of the organisations involved but only the views of the individual authors.
  5. The full list of contributors to this report is: Stephen Bush, Richard Corbett MEP, Sandro Gozi, Nia Griffith MP, Stephany Griffiths Jones, Jennifer Jackson-Preece, Maria Maltschnig, Lisa Nandy MP, Kaisa Penny, Tomáš Petříček, Rachel Reeves MP, Nathalie Tocci and Paola Sartori, Wes Streeting MP, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP.
  6. The Fabian Society / YouGov poll had a total sample size of 1660 adults, and fieldwork was undertaken between 13-14 August 2018. The question on positives and negatives in 2044 was run on the 16-17 August with a sample size of 1676. Both surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  7. The Fabian Society is Britain’s oldest political think tank. Founded in 1884, the Society is at the forefront of developing political ideas and public policy on the left. The society is alone among think tanks in being a democratically-constituted membership organisation, with over 7,000 members. It is constitutionally affiliated to the Labour party.
  8. FEPS is the first progressive political foundation established at the European level. Created in 2007 and co-financed by the European Parliament, it aims at establishing an intellectual crossroad between social democracy and the European project. It puts fresh thinking at the core of its action and serves as an instrument for pan-European intellectual and political reflection.

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