22 Jun 2018

Revealed: two years after Brexit vote, public still supports tough immigration targets

Almost three quarters of British adults still back Theresa May’s tough stance on reducing immigration, a Deltapoll survey for Channel 4 News reveals.


Despite national outrage over the Windrush scandal, almost three quarters of British adults still back Theresa May’s tough stance on reducing immigration, a Deltapoll survey for Channel 4 News reveals.

Two years after the EU referendum, support for the government’s tough immigration targets is widespread across the country and political allegiances, according to the poll.

Most people want the number of immigrants coming to Britain to be reduced to “tens of thousands” per year after Brexit – although many believe there should be some flexibility.

Strikingly, the majority of Remain voters would like to see numbers of immigrants go down. Some 23% of Remainers want a “big reduction” in EU immigration, while 35% want a small reduction.

The survey also reveals that half of UK adults still support the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy – despite the Windrush Scandal

However, many people remain positive about the overall impact that immigration to the UK has had over the last few decades.

Half of UK adults believe it has been mainly beneficial, compared to around 40% who said it had mainly been detrimental.

Attitudes after Brexit

Other recent surveys have suggested attitudes towards immigration may have softened after Brexit.

But the survey by Channel 4 News shows that 42% of UK adults want to see a big reduction in EU immigration after Brexit. And a further 28% would be happy with a small reduction.

Only 14% of people want EU immigration to increase. And just 15% oppose the government’s target to reduce immigration to “tens of thousands”.

A majority of people think the government should only allow EU citizens with specialist skills to move to the UK after Brexit. But more than one in five think the UK should allow in any EU citizens who want to live and work here.

After Brexit, most people (55%) want the UK’s immigration policy to treat Commonwealth and EU citizens on the same basis, without favour one way or the other.

An overwhelming majority of Conservative voters support reducing EU immigration, while two thirds of Labour voters also back the policy.

The survey also suggests that one in five Lib Dem voters would like to see less immigration as well.

And most Conservative voters still support the “hostile environment” policy – compared to around four in ten Labour voters.

The “hostile environment” policy was also backed by two thirds of Leave voters, and more than a third of Remain voters.

London and Wales were the areas most in favour of increasing EU immigration after Brexit, while the North of England saw the most support for reducing numbers.

Between different age groups, the Conservatives’ policy to bring immigration levels down to “tens of thousands” is least popular among young people, aged 18-24. However, the majority of young people still support it, according to the poll.

In response to the poll findings, Ken Clarke MP told Channel 4 News: “I don’t think freedom of movement has done us any harm at all myself. We live in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-national society.  And if you think that has gone too far already, I think as far as my grandchildren are concerned, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Nigel Farage, the former UKIP leader, said: “The disconnect on this issue that is there between Westminster and ordinary folk out in the country is as big on immigration as it’s ever been.

“The posh boy Tories, the Vote Leavers… every single one of them part of the Notting Hill dinner party set, they discussed immigration in the last few weeks of the referendum, very reluctantly.  They now think, isn’t it wonderful, no one’s talking about immigration.  We can go on with net migration running at hundreds of thousands a year and no one cares.  A liberal Brexit, that’s what they call it. Boris of course, and Michael Gove support that.”

Deltapoll interviewed 2,063 adults between 8th June – 11th June, 2018.