Saturday 20 January 2018

Exclusive: Brexit panic - Public takes fright in wake of Brexit vote

Huge 8pc confidence drop here after vote in UK

A woman holds a sign in Whitehall, London, as Remain supporters march to Parliament Square to take part in the March for Europe rally to show their support for the European Union in the wake of Brexit. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
A woman holds a sign in Whitehall, London, as Remain supporters march to Parliament Square to take part in the March for Europe rally to show their support for the European Union in the wake of Brexit. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

The UK's decision to leave the European Union has dramatically reversed the return of tentative public confidence here, a landmark Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll has found.

The Brexit impact immediately led to a massive eight-point drop in the percentage of people who felt that they would be better off next year.

The poll has also found an increase in support for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail and a sharp drop in support for Independents which, along with other findings, may reflect a desire for political stability here post-Brexit.

While the Brexit vote has flattened but not totally shot public confidence, today's opinion poll will cause deep concern at Government level and throughout the business community.

Read more: Poll excluisve: Public confidence in Independents crashes

The finding underlines how urgent it will be for the Government to secure a good deal for Ireland in trade talks between the EU and the UK.

The state of the parties is: Fine Gael (30pc), up four points; Fianna Fail (26pc), up two points; Sinn Fein (20pc), up six points; Labour (7pc), unchanged and Independents/others (14pc), down 13 points.

In the Sunday Independent today, Paul Moran, associate director of Millward Brown writes: "On paper, it would seem that Sinn Fein have seen a dramatic boost in their fortunes. But Sinn Fein is a party that often flatters to deceive when there is no general election."

However, the poll has also found that just a quarter (25pc) think Enda Kenny should remain as Taoiseach, and 56pc think he should resign. A slim majority (54pc) of Fine Gael voters think he should remain.

Read more: A national unity government can help us navigate uncharted waters

The Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin (43pc), up 16 points since the last comparable poll taken during the election in February, is by far the most popular party leader.

"It would seem that Micheal Martin's statesman-like decision to support the Government (in some circumstances) is paying dividends," Mr Moran writes today.

The nationwide poll was conducted among a 1,000 representative sample over 13 days before and after the Brexit vote up to June 30. The margin of error is 3.1pc.

The most significant finding was that the percentage of people who thought they would be better off next year plummeted during polling from 27pc to 19pc immediately after the Brexit vote.

Overall, 22pc of people feel they will be better off and 22pc feel they will be worse off next year.

However, before the Brexit result, 27pc felt they would be better off and 20pc felt that they would be worse off.

At 27pc, the number of people who felt they would have been better off had returned to late Celtic Tiger levels and was at its highest level since the economic crash in 2008.

But virtually overnight, and throughout the week after the Brexit vote, public confidence nosedived to levels not seen since 2013 and 2014.

Read more: Our economy depends on Kenny being stronger in the face of a dual crisis

In tandem, the percentage of people who feel they will be worse off, or in the same situation next year, has increased.

The Government will also be anxious to restore consumer confidence in the period before those talks get under way and are concluded in two to three years' time.

Writing in the Sunday Independent today, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe states: "As a small open economy, Ireland is also particularly susceptible to external risks.

"The biggest of these is, of course, the decision taken by our neighbours in the UK to leave the European Union."

Also writing in this newspaper, the Transport Minister, Shane Ross predicts: "The 'Leave' decision will be reversed. Britain and Europe will breathe a collective sigh of relief. Democracy will be pronounced to have prevailed.

"The entire venture will be deemed a lucky escape. No one will be luckier than Ireland if Britain remains in the Union."

Today's opinion poll also finds that the new Government's satisfaction levels remain similar to the previous administration, at 28pc.

However, the instability caused by Brexit may well prolong the life of the Government.

More than seven in 10 (72pc) believe that the Government will last no more than two years.

But an analysis of interviews conducted before and after the Brexit result suggests that people are drifting towards the upper end of that time scale: those who believed the Government would last 18 months to two years shifted from 29pc to 38pc.

"It may well be that stability, in the short-term at least, is the most sensible option," according to Paul Moran of Millward Brown.

Read more: Martina Devlin on Brexit: The game changer that could finally bring unity

Sunday Independent

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