Brexit is the plan to take the UK out of the European Union. The way the law is currently framed means that this will happen automatically at the end of march 2019 if no transition deal is arranged. The latest deal negotiated by the government was heavily rejected by the House of Commons.

But it has been claimed several times recently that the public don't really understand this and that many think that a "no-deal" Brexit means the UK stays in the EU.

For example this tweet claims

26% of the people Sky asked think "No Deal #Brexit" means we #RemainInTheEU

It looks as though this specific result might have been one of those Twitter polls that are highly unrepresentative. But Sky News might have some other evidence and I've hear the claim in several other news programmes.

Is there any reliable evidence that says that a significant proportion of people don't understand that "no-deal" Brexit means leaving the EU?

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    @fredsbend: It means that there will be no agreements between the UK and the EU, falling back to baseline defaults e.g. in trade, border customs etc.; it's basically a "worst case" scenario which, not least because of the Ireland / North Ireland border issue, bears a huge potential for troubles (if you pardon the pun).
    – DevSolar
    Jan 22, 2019 at 9:51
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    @owl Britain invoked article 50 nearly 2 years ago (that why there is a deadline in march). The "deal" was a transition agreement to avoid a catastrophic change in arrangements after the march deadline giving the UK time to agree a permanent deal. Sure the UK could negotiate a better deal after that but not without avoiding the serious disruption expected by not being ready in 2 months time.
    – matt_black
    Jan 22, 2019 at 15:42
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    @Owl: If you want to get legally precise about it, the UK has invoked Article 50 on March 29, 2017. "No deal" refers to the case if the UK fails to negotiate and conclude a deal on "the arrangements for its withdrawal" as per Article 50(2). In this case, "the Treaties shall cease to apply to to the State in question [...] two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council [...] unanimously decides to extend this period". Bottom line, as of March 30th, 2019, the UK will be a foreign country for the EU, with no mutual agreements whatsoever. No deal.
    – DevSolar
    Jan 22, 2019 at 15:46
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    (ctd.) Refer to WP:Withdrawal from the European Union#Procedure. It continues thus: "If negotiations do not result in a ratified agreement, the seceding country leaves without an agreement, and the EU Treaties shall cease to apply to the seceding country, without any substitute or transitional arrangements being put in place. As regards trade, the parties would likely follow World Trade Organization rules on tariffs." -- So "Deal" / "No Deal" is everything but a misnomer.
    – DevSolar
    Jan 22, 2019 at 15:49
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    (ctd.) Of course the UK could still attempt to get a new deal with the EU, but I wouldn't hold my breath that their position would have become any better by then. And none of the things that the UK would like to have from the EU (e.g. market access) would come without all of the strings attached that the UK would not like (e.g. open borders)... --- Perhaps you are referring to the "backstop", a part of the deal negotiated and up for vote now, referring to the detail of the Northern Ireland border issue? That one is part of the whole deal, and will stand and fall with it.
    – DevSolar
    Jan 22, 2019 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


It's not clear where this number comes from. In this properly controlled research from January 2019 it appears that just 4% of respondents think that no-deal means staying in the EU (page 39).

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    More detail on the reported results, sample sizes and methods would be useful in this answer.
    – matt_black
    Jan 22, 2019 at 14:10

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