A majority (54%) of British respondents think the UK was right in its recent dispute with the EU over vaccine supplies, with a further 17% saying neither side was right, and only 6% siding with the EU. Even among respondents who voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, a plurality (46%) considers the UK was right in this specific dispute, with only 8% siding with the EU. Meanwhile, 23% of remain voters say they “don’t know” and a further 22% say that neither side was right.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently said that as a country acting on its own, the UK can act more as a Covid vaccine “speedboat” as opposed to the EU “tanker”. Indeed, a plurality of British respondents (35%) thinks that being outside the EU has helped the UK in its vaccine rollout. Meanwhile, 26% think Brexit has neither helped nor hindered the UK vaccination campaign, and 20% consider that it has been a hindrance. Even among those who say they voted to remain in the EU, 28% find that leaving has had a positive contribution to the UK’s vaccination drive
Overall, the recent dispute over vaccine supplies between the UK and the EU has led nearly half (49%) of the British public to change their view about the future of the UK outside the EU: at present, 30% now have a more positive view of the UK’s future outside the EU following the vaccines dispute (including 20% of remain voters), compared to 20% who now have a more negative view of the UK’s future outside the EU. Nonetheless, despite the noticeable shift in opinion expressed by many respondents, a slim majority (51%) say the recent dispute surrounding vaccine supplies has not changed their view of the UK’s future outside the EU for better or worse.
Beyond the recent dispute over vaccines, our research finds that 43% think the UK made the right decision in leaving the EU, whereas 37% think it was the wrong decision. Interestingly, as many as 20% of respondents say they “don’t know” if the UK made the right or wrong decision, including 13% of leave voters and 20% of remain voters.
It increasingly seems true that the UK’s successful vaccination program will get touted as a ‘Brexit dividend’ by those who argued in favour of the UK leaving the EU—and the EU’s mistakes and delays with their own vaccination program appear to be cementing this view. Even among those who voted in favour of the UK remaining in the EU, there is strong support for the idea that the UK was right in its recent vaccine dispute with the EU. Many respondents appear to agree that being outside the EU has given a degree of flexibility to the UK Government for a faster vaccination program to be unfolded, potentially allowing the UK to ‘return to normal’ earlier than the rest of the European continent this spring.