Wales politics

Brexit in Wales: Would Welsh voters do it again?

Wales and EU flags graphic Image copyright Thinkstock

A year ago Wales experienced a political earthquake.

Years of assumptions about what Wales thought about the European Union, immigration, and about how it votes were proved wrong when the country voted to leave the EU - in line with the UK result.

The big debate right now is on what kind of Brexit Britain may end up with through the negotiations which have just started.

To mark one year on from the referendum, we spoke to those involved in the campaign at the time.

Where does Brexit go from here?

Has the country come together, or is it as divided on 23 June 2017 as it was 23 June 2016?

And, if there was another vote, would the result be the same?

Have attitudes changed?

Image caption Roger Scully: "Remainers are still Remain, Leavers are still Leave"

Cardiff University's Prof Roger Scully says recent polling suggests that little has changed in public attitudes in Wales on Brexit.

Polls commissioned by the university with ITV Wales have asked people how they would vote in a referendum.

Between 29-31 May the Welsh Political Barometer poll of 1,014 people suggested that 45% would vote Leave and 42% would vote to Remain.

"Overall there's very little change," he says. "That reflects actually at the individual level very few people have changed their minds. Remainers are still Remain, Leavers are still Leave."

He said the polling "pretty much" suggests you would get the same result if you re-ran the poll.

People 'not convinced Brexit will be damaging'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionEluned Morgan said Remainers lacked a "simple" pro-EU message

A year on from the result, former MEP Eluned Morgan has conducted her own research in one Welsh town and found people still wanting to press ahead with leaving the EU.

The Labour AM for Mid and West Wales, who backed Remain, said: "I don't think we can be confident that the outcome would be different if we had a second Brexit vote today."

Leavers dispute whether there will be economic damage from Brexit, but Ms Morgan suggested that attitudes would change "as prices in the shops continue to rise and the economy contracts".

Currently she thinks that the people of Wales have not been convinced "that Brexit will be as damaging as I think it will be to the economy".

Ms Morgan, who is organising a conference on Brexit with a number of Remainer speakers in Hay-on-Wye on Saturday, conducted an exercise with about 40 people in Llanelli town centre earlier in June.

"What was striking was the number of people who still think that Brexit is a good idea, and they want out," she said.

"I think we've got to be prepared, again to listen and to explain, and to get people to understand the impact on their own economy and their own pockets.

"We should probably stop talking about the EU in terms that people don't understand," Ms Morgan added.

"Not many people I know understand hard and soft Brexit, and those are experts."

'No such thing as hard or soft Brexit'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionAndrew RT Davies said his family faced abuse over his decision to campaign for leave

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives was one of the most prominent Welsh Leavers during last year's campaign.

Andrew RT Davies, said he did not doubt "for one minute we were going to win this campaign".

"There was huge frustration, in some communities anger, at the direction of travel of this integrated super-state of Europe that just hadn't been delivering", he said.

"The surprising thing for me was seeing the 'crachach' here in Wales, the Welsh establishment, realising that they were so out of touch after the referendum."

He claimed Welsh Remainers had "cosmetically" come to terms with the result but in reality were using "guerrilla tactics to try to delay the will of the people... by using terms such as hard Brexit or soft Brexit".

"There is no such thing," Mr Davies said.

"Ultimately what we want... is a good deal for Britain and a good deal for Europe."

Should there be cross-party work on Brexit in the House of Commons, as some of his Welsh Tory colleagues have suggested?

The Welsh Conservative leader said that was the position that he had 12 months ago - when he criticised Labour in the Welsh Government for not working cross-party on its Brexit position - "that actually the process needs to be as inclusive as possible".

"If parties choose not to engage in that process, that's their lookout, but that offer should be made," he said.

'Things happen'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionGeraint Talfan Davies says the referendum was a "disfiguring event" for society

One of the most senior figures in the Welsh Remain campaign was Geraint Talfan Davies, who chaired Wales Stronger in Europe's advisory group.

He thought that the general election - where the Conservative party lost its majority - killed a hard Brexit "stone dead", but he said a soft Brexit "may not be achievable" and may be seen as "cherry-picking".

"The deal that the rest of Europe will accept cannot possibly have all the benefits that we have as full members," Mr Davies said.

"It is going to be inferior in that sense. The question is how inferior.

"What may happen is if hard Brexit is off the table, and if soft Brexit is unachievable or is unsatisfactory, then I think public opinion may start to shift, and people say, you know, what do we measure this against?

"The only thing you measure it against is the status quo."

So, could attitudes shift?

"As we speak, you have to say, the odds don't look good," he said.

"But events, things, happen.

"People did not anticipate the outcome of the general election".

'You leave or you stay'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionNathan Gill talks about his experience on the night of the EU referendum

Welsh MEP and North Wales AM Nathan Gill was UKIP Wales leader at the time of the referendum and a prominent Leave campaigner.

He thinks if the referendum was re-run now Wales would still vote leave, but with a bigger majority than it did a year ago.

"There's only one type of Brexit," he says. "You leave or you stay."

Mr Gill, who is still a member of UKIP but sits as an independent AM, says Britain has to leave the single market and the customs union - "otherwise we haven't left".

"We have to give the public some credit. They understood these things," he says.

"The people rose up and said, we want to take back control.

"Anything less than that is a con."

Related Topics

More on this story