In a new YouGov poll, 44% of Brits say that they prefer a no-deal hard Brexit, whereas 42% want to remain in the European Union. At the same time, the annual Hansard Society survey shows that 72% of respondents think that the government needs “a lot” or a “great deal” of improvement. The study documents a populist surge against the establishment, mirroring the trends seen in the rest of Europe, as well as in the United States with the rise of President Donald Trump.
The YouGov poll provides an illuminating geographical breakdown. There are only three Remain strongholds: London, Scotland, and Northern-Ireland. The latter two have specific local circumstances that make an E.U. membership important. Scotland wants greater national independence and sees the E.U. as the means to achieve that. Northern Ireland is the only part of the British Isles that borders the E.U. by land, and it will be severely affected by border control.
London, however, is a different story. Londonistan, as it is unlovingly called, has become the showcase for multiculturalism with a population that is no longer majority English, and it shows in the way they vote.
Prime Minister Theresa May has done such a poor job in negotiating a Brexit deal that Brexiteers view it as on par with the Versailles Treaty that Germany was forced to sign after it lost World War I. The difference is that the U.K. never lost a war and is in a uniquely strong negotiating position. There is no reason why it should have to pay the equivalent of war reparations to the EU.
The view of the Brexiteers is that only political incompetence of the first order could manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That is why Britons now prefer a no-deal Brexit, even though it could mean some hardship.
The Hansard Society survey shows that the British people have lost confidence in their politicians to such a degree that the majority wants to transform the political system: 56% think that Britain is in decline, and 54% say that that the country needs a strong leader who is willing to break the rules.
Now 42% believe that many of the country’s problems could be solved if Parliament had less power; 43% prefer new and radical politicians and parties over the establishment.
These numbers reflect a country in crisis and whose democracy is in danger. The people feel disenfranchised by an arrogant political elite. Consequently, populist parties such as the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) are surging in the polls.
A measure of responsibility in the political elite is how it responds to the rise of populism. If it is divorced from reality and the people it is set to govern, it blames populism on the populists and quells free speech to prevent alternative ideas from being spread.
Responsible elites, by contrast, see the rise of populism as a barometer of their own failure and incompetence and adjust their course accordingly. By this metric, mainstream politicians across the Western world are doing a spectacularly wretched job. Consequently, Brits are preparing for a no-deal Brexit.