The Leave/Remain divide hasn’t gone away

The Labour Party could be in trouble if it takes Remainers for granted. 

Britain was very divided over Brexit. The partisan divide between “Leave” and “Remain” identities became much more important than party affiliations for most voters. 

You might imagine this has gone away now Brexit has happened. But it hasn’t. These divides have only faded slightly. 71% of people still feel either very strongly or fairly strongly attached to a Remain/Leave identity.

Source: Has Brexit Gone off the Boil? What the UK Thinks: EU (November 2020)

Brexit identities are stronger than attachments to political parties. Only 52% of people feel very strongly or fairly strongly attached to a party – the difference with those who feel very strongly about Brexit (Remain or Leave) is particularly stark (12% for political parties, 39% for Brexit). 

Source for party identity strength: British Election Study Wave 20

Christabel Cooper, a Labour councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham and co-author of The Devastating Defeat, a widely-read analysis of the 2019 General Election, argues the state of public opinion provides a clear warning for the Labour Party:  

“Around 80% of Labour’s 2019 vote came from Remainers, most of whom still feel strongly about their Remain identity. The issue of Britain’s membership of the EU has (for the short to medium term) been resolved, but the nature of its ongoing relationship with the EU has not, and will have a discernible economic impact. 

“When Brexit inevitably resurfaces as an issue, Labour needs to have a developed position that recognises that its core vote is still heavily dependent on Remain voters, but which also has an appeal to left-leaning Leave voters.”