Voters reject EU payments during Brexit transition

PRESS RELEASE 02 Feburary 2017

  • Public attitudes to transition period revealed for the first time by Portland/YouGov poll
  • Continuing to pay into the EU budget would be unacceptable to nearly half of voters
  • Voters say transition should last no more than two years, setting 2021 deadline for final Brexit

Half of voters want the UK to stop paying money to the EU the moment we leave, new polling reveals. Continuing to pay into EU funds during a transition period “would not be acceptable” to 48% of voters. Only 31% think such payments would be “acceptable”.

The findings come from the very first research into the public’s attitudes towards a Brexit transition period, conducted by Portland and YouGov. The polling provides new insight into the constraints public opinion is placing on the Government, as it seeks to negotiate the UK’s exit from the EU.

This new research is launched alongside “Destination Brexit”, a Portland publication featuring contributions from heavyweights including former Justice Secretary Michael Gove and former Foreign Minister of Poland Radek Sikorski, which explores how the UK can secure a good Brexit deal.

In her Lancaster House speech, the Prime Minister said interim arrangements would be required between the conclusion of Article 50 negotiations in 2019 and final implementation of Brexit.

Our polling shows:

  • The public is open to a transition period in principle. 37% of voters support the idea of a transition period after the end of Brexit negotiations in 2019, with 22% in opposition. 40% did not know or expressed no preference.
  • However, voters are not willing to pay into the EU budget in the interim. 48% of voters think it would not be acceptable to contribute to the EU budget during a transition period, while only 31% think it would be acceptable.
  • 50% said a transition period should last no longer than two years beyond the end of negotiations in 2019, including 32% who said it should last no more than one year. Just 20% opted for longer than two years with 30% not offering a view. With Article 50 negotiations set to conclude in 2019, this suggests the public want to see the Brexit process complete by 2021.
  • Leave voters believe that if there is a transition period it should be short. 55% of Leave voters say a transition period should last no more than one year and a further 19% say it should last no more than two years. Only 8% of Leave voters say a transition period should last longer than two years with 19% not offering a view.

Other likely features of a transition period also face considerable opposition:

  • By 47% to 32%, voters say it would be unacceptable to remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice;
  • By 43% to 36%, voters say it would be unacceptable to maintain free movement of people;
  • By 42% to 33%, voters say it would be unacceptable to remain in the customs union and be unable to strike new trade deals.

At the same time, 58% say maintaining barrier-free access to the single market would be acceptable during a transition period, with only 17% saying this would be unacceptable.

Commenting on the findings, Victoria Dean, Head of Portland’s Brexit Unit, said:

“This Portland/YouGov polling demonstrates how difficult it will be for the Government to deliver a smooth exit from the EU while maintaining public support.

“In order to secure a deal and prevent a ‘cliff edge’, it is likely the UK will have to contribute to the EU budget in the interim. Our polling suggests this is not a price the public is willing to pay.

“There is also little appetite for a transition period beyond two years, setting a deadline of 2021 for the UK’s final exit from the EU.”

Michael Gove MP, former Justice Secretary, said:

“While a short period of time may be needed to implement Brexit smoothly, the public wants Brexit delivered, in full, as soon as possible.

“That means an end to payments into the EU budget, uncontrolled free movement from the EU and the supremacy of the rogue European Court of Justice.”

Emma Reynolds MP, former Shadow Europe Minister, said:

“It is vital that the Government secures a transitional arrangement with the European Union to ensure we get the best deal for Britain. Families and businesses need certainty. Businesses are calling for regulatory stability. They need a plan for a future which is still so unclear. Theresa May must not be allowed to take the country off a cliff edge, which would be disastrous for our economy, our jobs, and growth.”

Tables for the polling are attached.


The polling coincides with the launch of “Destination Brexit” – a new publication from Portland examining what sort of deal the UK can expect from the EU. Featuring contributions from former Foreign Minister for Poland Radek Sikorski, former Vote Leave campaigner Michael Gove and Portland’s Stephen Wall, Britain’s former Ambassador to the EU, the publication examines what shape the final EU-UK deal is likely to take.

Extracts from the publication are below.

Radek Sikorski:

“Given the number of constituencies in Europe, time, in the short term, works in Britain’s favour. The EU 27 will be loathe to renegotiate the current multi-annual budget, which runs till 2020, meaning that Britain is likely to get an extension to the current deadline of March 2019, if Article 50 is indeed triggered soon.

“But beyond that, a trade agreement will take many, many years of work.

“As someone who was involved during the Polish presidency of the EU in the negotiations of a deep and comprehensive free trade area with Ukraine – pretty much the same kind of agreement that would suit a post-EU UK – I can promise that completing such an agreement is impossible to manage in two or three years. If British politicians insist on withdrawing Britain from compliance with previous trade agreements without such an agreement, the Commission will impose automatic sanctions in the relevant areas, just as it would on any other non-member contravening treaties.”

Michael Gove:

“Theresa May is absolutely right to make clear that our destiny lies outside the single market. Only then can we control our borders and set taxes at the rate our industries need and our pensioners deserve.

“Outside the single market, we can legislate and regulate in the national interest. If businesses want to adopt EU standards to sell to EU citizens, they can. If they want to avoid ridiculous EU rules on everything from the management of our inland waterways to the type of creme brûlée torch you can use in a restaurant, they can ignore them. We trade with the world, but govern ourselves.

“Indeed we can trade more with the world if we’re outside not just the single market but the customs union, because then we can negotiate our own trade deals. Trade agreements between individual countries are concluded much more quickly than negotiations involving blocs. Staying in the customs union ties our hands, prevents us securing new deals with old friends and holds our exporters back. It’s the opposite of taking back control.”

Stephen Wall:

“Britain in the world will be diminished by our leaving the EU and the EU will also be diminished by our leaving. This is because Britain has been, with France, the main advocate and implementer of a coherent, activist foreign policy and of serious military capability.

“If M. Fillon is the next President of France he, along with President Trump, will be disposed to treat Russia’s President Putin as a potential ally instead of the menacing demagogue he really is. Sanctions against Russia: bad for French agricultural exports, says Fillon. The willingness of British leaders to call Putin as he is, and to advocate and achieve a policy of containment, will remain. But when we are no longer in the room while EU policies are made and statements drafted, we will have lost our decisive say.

“The principal big players in Europe remain Germany, France and the United Kingdom. We have to try to rebuild the trilateral relationship on a new basis which recognises a continuing European shared interest in a world where Trump will not automatically be accepted in Europe as the authoritative leader of the West, where Russia will conspire to undermine our democracies and to intimidate its neighbours and where the global power of China, political as well as economic, will be increasingly asserted.”

The other contributors are former Defence Secretary and member of Portland’s Advisory Council Michael Portillo; former UKTI head Andrew Cahn; and Chair of Change Britain and former Chair of Vote Leave Gisela Stuart MP.

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