A customs union Brexit would be deeply unpopular with voters - further denting the appeal of both Conservatives and Labour if the two parties agreed such a deal - according to a new Opinium poll released today. 

Amid continued speculation about the prospect of a customs union deal being agreed in talks between the Government and the Labour Party, the survey of 2,000 people shows 49 per cent would support it being put to the people in a confirmatory referendum against 30 per cent who would oppose the idea. 

Significantly, the poll shows Conservative supporters are now evenly split on whether there should be a new public vote on such a deal, with 43 per cent in favour and 41 per cent against.

And, even though Labour has stopped short of backing this demand, there is an overwhelming majority - 67 to 10 per cent – among its supporters for a confirmatory public vote on a customs union deal.

Opinium asked voters about a customs union deal that “would allow the continued export and import of manufactured goods to move between the UK and EU without tariffs, but would also mean that the UK would follow EU rules in certain areas and be unable to sign independent trade deals.” 

  • By a margin of three to one – 74 per cent to 26 per cent - people say it would not “honour the result of the last referendum”.
  • By a margin of almost two to one – 60 to 33 per cent – people say they would feel disappointed, angry or anxious rather than happy, relieved or delighted by such a deal.
  • A total of 27 per cent of people say it would make them less likely to vote Labour, compared to 12 per cent who say it would make them more likely.
  • A total of 30 per cent of Conservatives say it would make them less likely to back the party, with just 12 per cent saying it would make them more likely to vote Tory.


Sam Gyimah MP, the former universities minster, said: 

“Even if the Government and the Labour Party can agree a customs union deal, it will do nothing to break the spell that Nigel Farage has currently cast on British politics. These poll findings show such an outcome would be hugely unpopular with voters because it would satisfy neither Leavers nor Remainers. Instead, more and more MPs and members of the public are concluding that the only way to secure a stable majority and a lasting settlement is to put this vexed issue back to the people.”


The survey will make grim reading for both the main parties after local elections where the Conservatives lost more than a thousand council seats and Labour also suffered unexpected losses to pro-Remain parties like the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.  

Asked about how they planned to vote in European Parliamentary elections on May 23, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party leads the field, narrowly ahead of Labour while the Conservatives are now just 2 per cent ahead of the resurgent Liberal Democrats. 

  • Brexit Party: 26
  • Labour: 23
  • Conservative: 13
  • Liberal Democrat: 11
  • Green: 5
  • SNP: 4
  • UKIP: 4
  • Change UK – The Independent Group: 2
  • Plaid Cymru: 2 
  • Other: 1
  • Don’t know: 10


The poll’s findings come as the People’s Vote campaign publishes the first economic assessment of the economic costs of a customs union deal which concludes that it would deliver an annual £80 billion hit to our national income, leave people an average of £800 worse off, reduce the Treasury’s tax revenue by £26 billion and cut money available for public services by £13 billion.   

The report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign but conducted independently, highlights how such a deal would affect the spending decisions facing an incoming Labour or Conservative government first in 2022, and then in 2027. For instance, the £13 billion-a-year reduction in Treasury spending power would exceed the £11.2 billion that Labour says it would cost to abolish university tuition fees.

It concludes: 

While this type of customs union arrangement is seen as being as frictionless a trade relationship as is possible without the UK being in the single market, it would nevertheless involve significant non-tariff barriers that would hinder trade, particularly in services. That would be a material economic burden in view of the importance of services trade to the UK economy.”


Rachel Reeves MP, a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said: 

“A customs union deal is not as a damaging for our economy as a no deal Brexit. But it is a mistake to regard it as a soft option – let alone a fix-all for a political crisis that has its roots in promises that can’t be met, real costs that have been ignored and the reality that there is no stable majority in Parliament or a lasting settlement in the country without this going back to the people in a new public vote.”  



The polling data is available here.

NIESR’s report on the economic impact of a customs union can be read here: https://www.niesr.ac.uk/publications/economic-impact-united-kingdom-customs-union-deal-european-union