British Public Reject “No Deal” on Brexit

For Release

July 14, 2017

The British public want a deal on Brexit and are willing to compromise to get one, new research by the Policy Institute at King's College London, RAND Europe and Cambridge University shows. The finding suggests that the public disagree with the claim that “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain” when it comes to negotiations for leaving the EU.

Published today, the study has potentially significant implications for the government's negotiating stance as it heads into the second round of Brexit negotiations next week. It shows that the British public consistently place the greatest value on the ability to make trade deals inside and outside the EU, more so than curbing people's freedom of movement.

The research is the first to use an economic approach known as “stated preference discrete choice experiments” to measure how the British public value different components of a Brexit deal. More rigorous than traditional polling, the research involved interviews with 917 people, drawing from those who participated in the British Social Attitudes survey, considered to be the “gold standard” for survey research. Other key findings

  • The British public are more concerned with managing demand for public services than simply restricting freedom of movement, particularly those who voted to leave the EU.
  • People highly value having access to EU markets for trade in goods and services, but would also like the UK to be able to make its own trade deals.
  • People value the UK being able to make its own laws, but not as much as single market access or the ability to make trade deals.
  • People with university degrees hold stronger views about the value of freedom of movement for holidays and working and are less sensitive to the level of EU contribution. They also hold different views to those without degrees regarding the importance of UK sovereignty over its laws.
  • The public favour a Brexit agreement that resembles Norway's current relationship with the EU, allowing for free trade with other countries while remaining within the single market and accepting freedom of movement and some loss of sovereignty.

Jonathan Grant, Professor of Public Policy at King's College London, said:

“Our research is one of the most rigorous assessments to date of what the public wants from Brexit, and it clearly shows that the British people do not wish to head over a cliff edge and leave the EU on World Trade Organisation rules – they want a proper deal. But obviously this study is a snapshot in time; we would like to expand and repeat the research at regular intervals in order to understand how people's preferences are changing and help inform negotiations between the UK and EU as they progress further. A deal that reflects the preferences of the British and European people is surely better than a bad deal or no deal at all. The British public are sophisticated enough to understand that they can't ‘have their cake and eat it', and will need to make and accept compromises to reach a deal.”

Charlene Rohr, Senior Research Leader at RAND Europe, said:

“This study produced a range of interesting findings, in particular around what the public thinks about freedom of movement. The referendum result was seen by many as providing a mandate to significantly reduce immigration. But while our findings do show a desire to control movement of people to some extent, we found that this seems to stem from a concern about managing demand for public services, particularly for those who voted to leave the EU, rather than from wanting to limit freedom of movement per se. As such, it seems as though this particular issue is a lot less straightforward than is often portrayed in political and media debates.”

David Howarth, Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, said:

“The way this study has been done allows us to get away from unrealistic wish-lists and unhelpful clichés. If we build up from what people think about the specific choices the country faces as a result of the referendum, we get a much clearer picture of the acceptability of different kinds of result of the negotiations. The public's ranking of a Norway-style deal above remaining in the EU is not surprising in the light of the referendum result, but the public's ranking of remaining in the EU above crashing out with no deal into WTO terms should worry those who claim that the referendum and the general election give a mandate for Brexit at any price.”

- ENDS -

Notes for Editors:

For further media information, please contact Jack Melling on

  1. In February 2017, stated preference discrete choice experiments were incorporated into a survey undertaken by a panel derived from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey. The BSA survey is a random probability sample representative of the population of Great Britain, excluding Northern Ireland. Overall, 917 respondents provided information across various different choice scenarios.
  2. For this study, interviews were conducted using a combination of online and telephone methodologies, in order to include hard-to-reach and 'offline' parts of the population.
  3. By asking people to make choices, and trade-offs, between hypothetical options, it is possible to elicit their preferences, rather than asking people to report them directly, as is usually done in standard opinion polls. Asking directly can be subject to various distortions, such as giving socially acceptable answers. The approach used in this research also provides information on the relative strength of people's preferences for each attribute level, and the results can be used to quantify how acceptable a range of different scenarios are likely to be to the population as a whole.
  4. For more information about the Policy Institute at King's College London, visit
  5. For more information about RAND Europe, visit
  6. For more information about the University of Cambridge, visit

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