UK polling guru expects new Brexit referendum by 2040

LONDON — Here we go again.

Top political scientist John Curtice predicted another referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU could take place in the next 16 years.

“I think the 2016 referendum is going to be as unsuccessful as the 1975 one,” Curtice told the U.K. in a Changing Europe research organization Wednesday night, in reference to the vote that took Britain into the then-European Communities in the first place.

The timescale of another referendum “depends very much on uncertain politics,” he said. But he added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens before 2040.”

Curtice — professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde and a well-respected pollster in Westminster — argued that another referendum could not be ruled out because of the way different age groups voted back in 2016.

“If you look so far at what’s happened to attitudes, and if you look at the age profile of attitudes towards Brexit, you can see why,” he said. Ipsos polling showed 75 percent of 18-24 year olds voted remain (25 percent for leave) compared to 34 percent of 65-74 year olds (66 percent for leave).

The attitude of an incoming Labour government — which POLITICO’s Poll of Polls shows is highly likely to win the next election — towards the EU will also be pivotal, Curtice argued. He asked: “How does our relationship with the EU evolve, to what extent does the next Labour government soften it or not?”

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy has repeatedly said the EU will be Labour’s  “number one priority” in rebuilding relationships with international allies — but the party has ruled out trying to rejoin the bloc or its single market and customs union.

But Curtice said: “One of the things to realize is the Labour party is going to get elected by an electorate which is three-quarters anti-Brexit … Labour’s vote is almost as anti-Brexit as it was back in 2019.”


For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.