Thursday 15 December 2016


The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has caused some damage to its reputation among EU members of the G20, but raises hopes of wider world ties, according to early findings from a large survey released by the British Council today.

The opinion survey of nearly 40,000 people aged between 18 and 34 years old was carried out for the British Council by Ipsos MORI in two waves either side of the EU referendum.

And while the results show some significant negative shifts in the EU countries towards the UK’s attractiveness – as well as its people and government - there were positive reactions from nations outside the bloc.

Key survey findings include:

OVERALL ATTRACTIVENESS: 36 per cent of people in EU countries2 said Brexit had had a negative impact on the UK’s overall attractiveness as a country (compared to 17 per cent who said positive). However, in Commonwealth nations3 33 per cent saw Brexit as having a positive impact on overall attractiveness compared to 20 per cent negative. The figures for the rest of the G204 were 35 per cent positive and 17 per cent negative. The UK’s overall rank for attractiveness remained high – fourth in the world when considering tourism, studying, arts and culture, making personal contacts, and doing business and trade. 

TRUST IN PEOPLE: When asked about the Brexit vote and their trust in people from the UK, 33 per cent of EU nations said that it had had a negative impact, 16 per cent positive. However, in Commonwealth nations 31 per cent saw the vote as having a positive impact on their trust in people from the UK compared to 18 per cent negative.The figures for the rest of the G20 were 32 per cent positive and 15 per cent negative.

TRUST IN GOVERNMENT: When asked specifically about Brexit, 41 per cent of EU nations said that it had had a negative impact on their trust in the UK government, against 16 per cent positive. In Commonwealth countries, 29 per cent said it had had a positive impact compared to 21 per cent negative. The figures for the rest of the G20 were 31 per cent positive and 20 per cent negative.

Reflecting on the results, the British Council – the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities – is calling for an ‘Open Brexit’ in which the UK seeks to maintain and step up its people to people connections with other European nations and beyond. This would include continued ease of movement for students, academics and creative professionals; increased cultural, educational and scientific partnership, connections and research; and enhanced investment into the UK’s cultural and educational connections with countries globally.

The British Council believes that cultural relations is vital to the UK’s long-term standing across the globe and that the EU referendum result - and subsequent response to it - must be used as an opportunity to strengthen cultural and educational connections with the rest of the world.

Chief Executive of the British Council, Sir Ciarán Devane, said: “As the UK comes to reposition itself on the world stage, our reputation matters more than ever. We need to address the more negative opinions young people in Europe now have whilst making the most of the positive opinions elsewhere.

“We know cultural exchange builds trust. Staying active on the global stage will pave the way for the renewed alliances and trading deals that the UK will be seeking across the globe.

“Leaving the EU in a way that maintains relationships with the societies of Europe – and that strengthens these partnerships around the world - will be essential. 

“An Open Brexit can use these connections to forge new bonds globally, as well as continue the centuries of cooperation with the nations of Europe in science, education, business and the arts.”

The British Council commissioned the survey to track changes in the UK’s overall attractiveness to young people and soft power strengths as a follow up to its 2014 publication As Others See Us and completed the first wave in mid-June. Following the referendum result, the survey was run again in September to assess the impact of the result on the UK’s global standing.

Other key findings in the survey were:

REFERENDUM: Globally, 44 per cent believed the UK was already outside of the EU. There was a high awareness of the EU referendum (70 per cent knew it had taken place). Of those who were aware of the EU referendum or unsure if the referendum took place, 71 per cent were aware that the UK had voted to leave. Globally, 47 per cent had ‘no opinion’ or thought the referendum made ‘no difference’ to the UK’s overall reputation.

STUDY: When asked about the impact of Brexit on plans to study in the UK, 30 per cent of EU respondents said they were less likely to do so, five per cent said they were more likely. In Commonwealth countries 16 per cent said they were more likely and 15 per cent less likely. In the rest of the G20, 17 per cent said more likely and 14 per cent less likely.

BUSINESS: When asked about the impact of Brexit on plans to do business in the UK, 32 per cent of EU respondents said they were less likely to do so, six per cent were more likely. In Commonwealth countries and in the rest of the G20, 17 per cent were less likely and 15 per cent more likely.

Mona Lotten, of the British Council Insight team which led the survey, said: “One event alone, even if viewed negatively by people abroad, is not enough to permanently dent the overall attractiveness and reputation of a well-regarded country like the UK.

“But our national debate and the manner in which we leave the EU are being scrutinised by the rest of the world – we must now invest more in our cultural and educational connections in Europe and across the globe to ensure the UK maintains and grows its position on the world stage.”

The full report will be published in early 2017. 

Notes to Editor

1 – The 19 nations of the G20 are: France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada, South Africa, India, Argentina, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the USA. The final member is the European Union, represented by the European Commission, rotating Council presidency and the European Central Bank (ECB).

2 - France, Germany and Italy as the non-UK EU members of the G20.

3 - Australia, Canada, South Africa and India as the Commonwealth members of the G20.

4 - Argentina, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey and the USA as the rest of the members of the G20.

Technical note: where results do not sum to 100, this may be due to computer rounding, multiple responses or the exclusion of “Don‘t know” categories.

The corresponding data can be found here:  

For more information, contact the British Council Press Office:

Kristen McNicoll on 0207 389 4967 / 07765 898 738 or

Peter Hawkins on 0207 389 3061 / 07771 718 135 or

For out of hours media enquiries call 07469 375 160.

The Ipsos MORI survey:

Ipsos MORI conducted an online survey across all 19 countries of the G20 (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States), interviewing 18-34 year olds with a minimum of secondary education.

The first wave was conducted between 23 May – 16 June 2016 with a final sample size of 20,594. The study was repeated between 8 September – 16 October 2016 with sample size of 19,010 who did not take part in the original study (with the exception of eight people in the UK, who were included to ensure sufficient participant numbers from Wales & Northern Ireland).

In each market, the data is weighted to be representative of the national population by age (18-24 vs. 25-34) and gender. Additionally, the sample of the second wave is weighted to match the sample profile of the first wave on the following variables: interlocking age and gender quotas, education (secondary and tertiary education), area of residence (urban, semi-urban and rural), and employment status (studying, employed or other/neither). The aim of this weighting is to minimise a possible sample bias and to allow for greater comparability.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. The majority of our income is raised delivering a range of projects and contracts in English teaching and examinations, education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. Eighteen per cent of our funding is received from the UK government. For more information, please visit: 

About Ipsos MORI

Ipsos MORI, part of the Ipsos Group, is a leading full service UK research company with global reach. We specialise in social & political and reputation research (Ipsos MORI Public Affairs), brand communication, advertising and media research (Ipsos MORI Connect), consumer, retail & shopper and healthcare research (Ipsos MORI Marketing), and customer and employee relationship management research (Ipsos MORI Loyalty). We also offer a range of solutions for online, telephone, face-to-face, mobile and omnibus fieldwork (Ipsos Observer).