In June 2016 17.4 million people voted to "Leave" the EU.

In today's EU elections it is anticipated that about 7 million people will vote for the Brexit parties (Brexit and UKIP). (Edit 29/5/19 The actual result came out at only 5.8 million).

Where have the other ten million gone?

Is this clear evidence that only about 7 of the 17 million voted for a hard, no-deal Brexit?

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    – Philipp
    May 25, 2019 at 0:08

4 Answers 4


Many of those ~10 million will simply not vote, others will vote for other parties and some have died.

Turnout in European parliament elections in the UK is typically on the low side, in 2014 it was only 35.6%. In contrast the turnout in the 2016 referendum was 72%. While turnout may be higher for these elections than in 2014, it will still most likely be well below the level seen in the referendum.

We will, however, have to wait for an exit poll to get a reasonable idea of how turnout in today's vote varies between leave and remain voters in 2016. The pre-election opinion polls are predicting a fairly large range of results due mainly to difficulties in predicting turnout.

There will also be a non-zero number of leave voters who vote for other parties today, particularly the Tories, but also Labour and even some for explicitly pro-remain parties (Lib Dems, Greens, Change UK). In Scotland and Wales voters also have the option of the SNP and Plaid respectively. Finally, in Northern Ireland the political system is almost totally distinct to the rest of the UK and voters there chose from a separate set of parties. Again, we really need to wait for exit polls to see how many 2016 leave voters vote for each party as the pre-election polls are somewhat scattered.

Finally, ~0.5million people die in the UK each year (so ~1.5 million since the referendum). Given the demographic of leave voters skews old, a significant number of leave voters will have passed away.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; the conversation about demographic trends in the UK has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    May 24, 2019 at 8:41
  • In regard to the 'Exit polls' mentioned above - under EU law, there is no exit polls for EU elections; The elections are staggered for each country, and an idea of the results in one region could potentially influence votes in another area.
    – SeanR
    May 24, 2019 at 8:53
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    @SeanR: That's only partially true. The Dutch didn't just have exit polls, they actually have counts per district. EU law only forbids adding those results together, and it only forbids the Dutch government from doing so. This is generally takes as an example of EU stupidity, and the euroseptic website "Geenstijl" has (as a protest against the EU) sent volunteers to collect these official counts in order to come up with an unofficial national result.
    – MSalters
    May 24, 2019 at 10:16
  • "Given the demographic of leave voters skews old, a significant number of leave voters will have passed away." Assuming that this voting preference sticks with a cohort, and isn't just a condition of being a certain age, like some other voting preferences.
    – Hasse1987
    May 25, 2019 at 22:30
  • @Hasse1987 Indeed, though polling since the referendum indicates that few people have changed their preference and it is sticking largely with the cohort. Regardless, I read the question as referring to the specific 17m people who voted leave in 2016 - of whom something in the region of up to 1m have since died.
    – stuart10
    May 26, 2019 at 9:10

European Parliament elections cannot deliver or prevent Brexit

For all the nonsense talked around sovereignty, the only election that actually has the power to affect whether the UK remains in the EU or not is the Westminster one.

And I think Brexit voters recognize this. Voting for the Brexit party at the EP elections is a protest vote that has a small ability to sabotage the EU, but cannot of its own change the status of the UK.

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    The first paragraph is spot on. The second... Even the recent local elections were talked about as if they could affect Parliamentary arithmetic.
    – Jontia
    May 23, 2019 at 9:06
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    @Jontia they affect Parliamentary arithmetic by being barometers of public opinion. If an MP sees half their constituency party councillors lose their seats over one issue, they are more likely to vote that way, against the whip.
    – Caleth
    May 23, 2019 at 10:07
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    @Caleth and the Euro elections have exactly the same potential. Especially if the turnout actually goes up to something reasonable instead of the usual 35%. Which is why I disagree with the second paragraph of this answer.
    – Jontia
    May 23, 2019 at 10:20
  • @Jontia the elections are unlikely to change the minds of MPs, unless they are wildly not what is predicted. The Conservatives expected to lose lots of seats in the locals, over Brexit
    – Caleth
    May 23, 2019 at 10:23
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    Your headline statement is, of course, true, but I really don't think it's the explanation. For example, at pre-referendum local elections, many people voted for UKIP councillors, even though local councils have nothing to do with Brexit. They also voted in If they were prepared to vote for local councillors who can't do anything about Brexit, why wouldn't they also vote for MEPs who can't do anything about Brexit? And the UK elected 24 UKIP MEPs in 2014. Why do you propose that things are different today? May 23, 2019 at 16:55

Wanting a "hard no-deal" Brexit does not imply voting for either UKIP or Brexit, nor does voting for U/B imply wanting no-deal. There will be people who vote U/B to protest that Brexit didn't occur in March, but don't want no-deal.

We simply don't know what kind of Brexit the 17M Leave voters wanted in 2016, because that wasn't the question asked.

Farage and Rees-Mogg will likely continue to claim that there are 17M people who want a no-deal Brexit, no matter what happens in the polls today.

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    +1, but this is I fear accurate rather than realistic. Without doubt a vote for U/B will be presented by Farage and the Conservative ERG as a vote for no-deal. No deal is after all the only Policy The Brexit Party (Note, not actually a party) has.
    – Jontia
    May 23, 2019 at 11:45
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    @Jontia But this was not made clear at the time of the referendum. Indeed Farage used to eulogise the Norway and Swiss models, and talked about how easy it would be to make a deal. There has undoubtedly been a moving of the goalposts. Had the Government opted for no-deal, Farage may well have claimed it was insufficient and that they should deport all the Europeans too. As he cannot personally take power, there is no reason why he should ever accept anything. His is the morality of the harlot, power without responsibility.
    – WS2
    May 23, 2019 at 15:03
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    @WS2 more likely had the Government opted for no deal Farage would have claimed any economic hardship was caused by that choice, not his preferred solution of <blank> which would have <blank> and <blank>. Feel free to fill in the blanks yourself.
    – Jontia
    May 23, 2019 at 15:09
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    He does not appear to be motivated like other politicians. He could for example, following the referendum, have mellowed his position, and joined the Conservative party - and perhaps won political office. But that's not the way Farage works. It is difficult to predict what the denouement of his career will be - but I cannot think it will possibly be a happy one. He does have a very fundamental difficulty in getting along with anyone but himself.
    – WS2
    May 23, 2019 at 15:12
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    @WS2 He's having his lifestyle funded to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds every year while claiming an MEP salary for never turning up. All for doing nothing but sabotaging our country and claiming to defend democracy. He's a despicable con man and has no need to become an MP and actually maybe have to do some real work.
    – Tim B
    May 24, 2019 at 7:47

After the referendum of 2016, those who vote against the EU become Brexiters. But, the main question that arises is how do voters think about the EU now? The polls show a major change in favor of Remain. The breeze is by all accounts in the sails of campaigners hoping to keep Britain in the EU as, for the first time in the history of the Brexit impasse, they see indications of the open mindset moving to support them. Now, what UK Thinks puts Remain ahead, by 54 to 46, with for all intents and purposes each survey led in the previous year or so recording a little Remain lead. People think, If we leave, there will be huge uncertainty and an unbalance period of time which causes thousands of jobs will be lost. Our necessary needs will be undermined and ensuring trade deals with the rest of the world will take time to last. It’s our democratic right to change the decision so, we think we should stay.

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    Being a UK citizen and quite interested in politics, polls are somewhat interesting to me. I have never heard of 'What UK Thinks' before; not seen their reported by anyone. The pollster most newspapers seem to quote is the YouGov.co.uk. This gives a very different view to the one you have quoted. May 25, 2019 at 16:45
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    In addition to what Simon said, this feels more like your personal opinion on why Brexit should be reversed than an actual answer to the question. You should edit this question to focus more on why the number of Brexit voters is declining, rather than why you believe that's a good thing.
    – F1Krazy
    May 25, 2019 at 22:02

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