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No public appetite for deregulation post-Brexit according to new polling for IPPR

Less than 15% of the public in favour of relaxing or removing EU standards across six key areas

New polling for IPPR has important implications for the UK’s choice post-Brexit to either align with or diverge from EU standards. The polling conducted for IPPR by Opinium shows there is strong public support for either retaining or strengthening EU-derived standards. The polling is published today in a new briefing paper on public attitudes to Brexit by IPPR, the progressive policy think tank.

The scope of any trade agreement with the EU is contingent on the extent of future regulatory alignment, so the choice facing the government is critical. If the UK does diverge from EU rules and standards post-Brexit, it would need to find another country or trade bloc to which it can align, the most likely option being the US.

But the polling shows that across a range of consumer, financial, employment and environmental legislation, a considerable majority of the public want to keep the current standards in place, or go further than the minimum requirements specified by EU legislation.

Only relatively small proportions of the public are in favour of reducing or removing standards: 14% want to either loosen or remove the current Working Time Directive rules, and only 9% want to raise or remove the cap on bankers’ bonuses. 

There is strong support for EU-derived standards among both Remain and Leave voters. For instance, only 5% of Remainers and 5% of Leavers support the loosening or removal of consumer cancellation rights. There is only 17% support for loosening or removing the Working Time Directive among Leavers. 

In fact, in some areas the public supports stronger standards - most notably, in environmental policy and financial regulation. 58% support a tougher cap on bankers’ bonuses, while 48% support stringer renewable energy targets.

The polling further shows that:

  • 73% of the public support retaining or strengthening the Working Time Directive
  • 84% of the public back keeping or extending consumer cancellation rights
  • 79% of the public want to maintain or lower the cap on bankers’ bonuses

In each of these cases, the strongest support for tighter regulations comes from different demographic groups. In the case of renewable energy targets, there is particularly strong support for tighter regulations among 18-24 year olds and Londoners. In the case of the cap on bankers’ bonuses, there is particularly strong support among older and retired groups. Therefore, while the vast majority of the public is in favour of high standards, there are some differences among respondents on particular issues, with young Londoners appearing to favour greater environmental protections and older respondents appearing to favour tighter regulations targeted at financial elites.

IPPR Director Tom Kibasi said:

“Our research shows there is no appetite for deregulation post-Brexit. Regulatory divergence is both anti-worker and anti-business—so it should be no surprise that the public don’t want it. 

“Our proposal for the ‘Shared Market’—where Britain and the single market would be aligned and in a customs union—remains the best way to secure our economic interests while honouring the vote to leave.”