For the latest news and analysis on how business, politics and economics intersect around the world, sign up for our daily global news briefing here.
U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s approval rating is up 5 percentage points among British adults since announcing his deal with the European Union over post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland, Morning Consult surveys show, though a majority continue to disapprove of his job performance.
Sunak Gains Steam Following Northern Ireland Trade Deal
Northern Ireland deal apparently well-received across a broad range of demographics
- Sunak saw the biggest bump among those who identify with the Conservative Party, with his approval rising 11 percentage points to 72%.
- In Northern Ireland itself, Sunak’s approval rating rose 9 points to 35%, though a clear majority disapprove of his job performance. Closer to home, the prime minister’s approval rating increased 10 percentage points in the West Midlands and Yorkshire, crucial areas that voted Labour for decades before dramatically swinging to the Tories in 2019.
- Younger adults are less impressed with the deal than their older cohorts: Sunak’s approval among those ages 18-44 increased just 2 points to 29%, compared with an 8-point bump among those 45 and older.
- Adults in Scotland, which has made independence a serious ambition under First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and largely supported “remain" during the Brexit referendum, saw a similarly small but positive shift.
Closing the deal may help Sunak begin to move past Brexit
Brexit has been blamed in some quarters of British society for the tenuous economic situation the United Kingdom finds itself in today. Britain is the only G-7 country with an economy still smaller than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, supplies of basic necessities such as fresh vegetables have been severely disrupted and British manufacturers stand to lose out on a windfall of E.U. defense spending related to Ukraine. Recent surveys show regret over Brexit is growing.
All of that makes it a topic that Sunak and his Conservative Party, which was ultimately responsible for the U.K.’s departure from the bloc, are eager to put behind them. Sunak hyped the deal, which grants major concessions to the European Union, by describing his excitement over Northern Ireland’s “unique” position in having access to both European and British markets — exactly what all British voters once enjoyed, his opponents quickly pointed out.
The deal seems to have done much to galvanize faith in Sunak’s leadership among his base at the least, which puts him in a better position to shape policy and messaging leading up to elections that must be held by January 2025. However, polls of a hypothetical matchup still show Labour with a dominant lead, and time is not on Sunak’s side as he attempts to set the Tories back on track.