Swindon’s magic roundabout is a metaphor for Brexit | Politics News
People’s views on Brexit have become more entrenched since the referendum, according to a Sky Data poll.
Whether people voted Remain or Leave, they tend to believe the events of the last two years have demonstrated that they were right.
While 52% of Remainers have felt more confident about their decision since 23 June 2016, 47% of Leavers feel the same about the way they voted.
However, about 20% of voters have begun to doubt their decision – with a slightly higher proportion of doubters in the Leave camp.
The national poll indicates the polarising nature of the negotiation period. Leave voters are more adamant that politicians representing their views should stand firm.
Some 55% of Leavers think Brexit MPs should “hold out more” and only 28% think they should “compromise more”.
Remainers seem more willing to give ground, with only 36% saying MPs who support their views should “hold out more”, while 42% thought they could “compromise more”.
To explore this further we spoke to people in Swindon, a town where 55% voted Leave in the referendum.
Swindon is an electoral litmus test for the mood of the nation. It’s north and south constituencies always back the winners in general elections and it joined the revolt against the EU.
In the Blues Cafe Bar, the patrons were resolute about leaving.
Pensioner Keith Glover said: “I can’t remember anybody saying go back to Europe and do deals over it. As far as I’m concerned Leave is Leave.
“Then we could have made our own rules on immigration. I’m not worried about no deal. I think it would be a good thing.”
Cafe owner Ninjit Lally agreed. He said: “We need to stand on our own two feet. Not worry about deals. Let them come to us. Stand by our guns and be strong.”
As a Brexit-voting town, Swindon does not conform to stereotypes. It is neither a declining industrial region, nor a UKIP-attracting seaside backwater.
It has a thriving tech industry. Honda is a major employer. There are numerous small businesses and, underneath Swindon’s factory roofs, the psychological struggle within Britain is being played out.
For example, Wilson Tools makes parts for the sheet metal industry. Here, most workers voted to leave the EU against the company’s wishes.
Ian McCartney, director of strategy at the factory, said: “Around the 55% mark probably voted to Leave.
“At the last minute, we got a feeling that a lot of them were going to vote Leave so we tried to communicate the impact – but I don’t think it made any difference.”
Due to Brexit, Wilson Tools has had to reconfigure its business creating a company in Germany to help transit its European exports.
“It’s been a very expensive project,” says Mr McCartney. “There’s been quite a lot of costs in computer projects and changes to infrastructure to allow us to do this and there’s a hidden cost.
“Where we’d like to be concentrating on the business, we are concentrating on Brexit changes instead.”
Honda employs 4,000 people in Swindon and sees a no-deal Brexit as posing serious challenges.
The car manufacturer told Sky News: “Our priority is to avoid a scenario in which the UK leaves the EU without a deal on the 29th of March.
“New checks at the border could disrupt our ‘just in time’ logistics systems, while the imposition of tariffs on the movement of goods between the EU and UK would have an impact on our competitiveness.”
Smaller firms have similar problems. Wiltshire firm Coombe Castle exports British cheese and cream around the world and relies on EU trade deals with third countries.
For example, with cream exports, if the UK loses the EU’s international trade deals and goes on to World Trade Organisation rules, Coombe Castle will have to pay 25% tariffs on exports to Japan, 36% to South Korea and 293% tariffs on exports to Canada.
Managing director Darren Larvin told Sky News: “We’ve analysed our option should we crash out – and it means we’ll probably lose about 50% of our business.
“We have to ensure our Canadian exports get into market before the 29 March otherwise after that we don’t have an agreement with Canada.
“We’ve either got to get it out as soon as possible or we’ve got to take no orders, probably from March.”
Matt Griffith, from not-for-profit firm Business West, which offers support to startup and growing businesses, told Sky News: “Since the deal has gone down, I think people have got much more concerned and there is much more urgency and worry.
“Instead of giving broad outlines I’m now giving people numbers for warehouses in Holland, there are companies going out to find logistics capacity.”
But while businesses worry about the prospect of no deal, the general population in Swindon is less concerned.
At the Yates Pub in Swindon we spoke to voters about the prospect of a second referendum.
Pensioner Alex Nicholl responded: “What are you going to say to the 17 million people, like myself, who voted for Brexit. Just say we’re going to cut that one out?
“This would be the first referendum in Great Britain that had never been adhered to. In the North of England and all those places that were vehemently for Brexit – there will be an uprising!”
It seems Swindon still reflects the mood of the nation – divided, confused and frustrated.
The legendary magic roundabout in the town – with five mini-roundabouts funnelling traffic around a central disk – is to traffic management what Brexit is to politics. It looks chaotic.
There are many routes out, all in different directions, but there’s a danger you’ll just keep going around in circles.
If you are looking to Swindon for clear Brexit signposting you won’t find it. This town is just as confused as Westminster.
:: Sky Data interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,004 UK adults online on 22 January 2019. Data is weighted to the profile of the population. Sky Data is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
For more information about Sky News Data polling, click here.