Brexit – some recent data and the questions they can answer

Anca Vlad of the UK Data Service investigates the range of data in the UK Data Service collection related to Brexit.


June 23rd 2016 marked the Brexit Referendum and, with it, years’ worth of questions about the future relationship with the European Union.

Even more questions have been raised by researchers in multiple disciplines, who went ahead and collected new data, looking for answers.

At the UK Data Service, we publish multiple data collections every week, with data from all over the world.

Recently we archived collections looking at different aspects of Brexit:

  • What lessons can be learned from the whole process and how much of it was based on informed public opinion?
  • what lies ahead for the higher education sector?
  • the implications for cross border litigation.

One such project conducted semi-structured interviews with hundreds of senior executives, administrators, members of the governing body and academics to investigate the implications, implementation and consequences of Brexit for UK universities, including the effects in relation to migration, international education and financial sustainability.

Based on the data collected, researchers conclude that universities are concerned by the high level of uncertainty and mention responsibility towards their students and staff. Remaining competitive will also be challenging, as offering students teaching and research experiences that span across borders will not be easy considering the (so-far predicted) isolating effects of Brexit.

Ludovic Highman, Senior research associate at the Centre for Global Higher Education, Institute of Education, University College London, points out that universities will likely pursue bilateral international and European links in a post-Brexit world.

Another project used survey data to address vital policy questions. It explored whether the process of leaving the EU respects and responds to public opinion, highlighting that voters were asked a yes or no question on Brexit, not what form they want it to take.

Researchers were therefore particularly interested in what the general public thought post-Brexit arrangements should be pursued, with a focus on trade and migration. The final sample amounted to about five thousand people across the UK, aged over 18.

The project concludes that respondents prefer a pragmatic Brexit, being particularly concerned with protecting the economy, public services, and living standards across all parts of the UK. Another takeaway from this research is that similar deliberative approaches should have a place in current and – where realistic – future UK governance.

Finger signpost with arms pointing to EU and Brexit, against background of UK & EU flags

Other researchers at the University of Exeter were interested in post-Brexit cross-border litigation. By conducting surveys and in-depth interviews with legal practitioners, they wanted to find out how the prospect of Brexit has affected cross-border disputes so far, possible transfers of jurisdiction, delaying tactics, settlement negotiations, effects on decision-making processes as well as clients’ conduct since the Brexit vote. What did they conclude?

Regardless of the outcome and what will happen after October 31st, the research covered here gives some insight into how people really feel about breaking up with Europe. It is also why we hope it will be reused in the future; all data collections are available from our online catalogue available here.

About the author

Anca Vlad has been a Research Data Services Officer and data repository administrator at the UK Data Service for the past four years. She was awarded an MSc in political science and research methods by the University of Essex.

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