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Brexit Consumer Research: No Deal

Introduction: Summary of research

The Which? Brexit consumer research programme has been running since September 2017 and consists of a quarterly quantitative tracker survey and a series of online communities. Selected data from the tracker is available to view here: https://consumerinsight.which.co.uk/brexit

This article and the attached research report detail the findings from talking to consumers about the implications of a no deal Brexit. The aim of the research was to understand how participants would feel if the UK left the EU without a deal and the subsequent impacts on them as consumers. The research covered a range of consumer sectors that may be impacted by a no deal Brexit, such as food, travel, energy and financial services. Quantitative research was conducted in August and September 2018 and January 2019, with qualitative research conducted in September 2018. 

Consumer Understanding

There was fairly limited understanding of what a no deal Brexit meant, in terms of its implications for the UK’s future relationship with the EU and the impact it could have on consumers. Only 4% of respondents in January 2019 claimed they were 'very knowledgeable' about the consumer impacts; just over half (54%) said they were either not very knowledgeable or not at all knowledgeable.

We conducted two polls in August 2018 and January 2019 asking what impact respondents thought a no deal Brexit would have on an individual’s day-to-day living. Around half of respondents in both polls thought a no deal Brexit would impact them either a great deal or a bit. This figure stood at 53% in January 2019. In our September 2018 online forum, participants were provided with a brief summary of what a no deal Brexit would mean and asked what impact they thought it would have on them. They generally anticipated it to have a negative impact on consumers, with an increase in the cost of consumer goods the most widely mentioned impact. Other anticipated impacts included:

- Legal/regulatory implications (e.g. ending of security agreements, introduction of tariffs)

- Business implications (e.g. increased costs of imports and supply chain issues).

Consumers were generally unhappy with current government provisions in the event of a no-deal. In January 2019, only 1 in 10 (10%) said they were satisfied that the government has prepared adequately for the potential impacts, with the majority (61%) saying they were dissatisfied. Survey respondents were also asked what they felt about the amount of information and advice the government has provided about the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit on consumers. Only 15% said they thought they had had the ‘right’ amount of information, with half (51%) saying they had too little information and 31% claiming they had seen no information at all.

Concern and consumer impact

Respondents to our January 2019 poll were asked how concerned they were about the possibility of a no deal Brexit. Just over half of consumers (54%) said they were concerned, with a quarter (24%) saying they were very concerned. The level of concern was highest amongst those who frequently discuss Brexit with family and friends (at least once a fortnight - 60%). Respondents to our September 2018 poll were asked how concerned they would be about a range of potential consumer scenarios that could occur as a result of a no deal Brexit, such as disruption to food supplies or shortages of some medicines. There were high levels of concern for many scenarios, as shown below.

In our September 2018 online community, participants were given detailed descriptions of potential implications of a no deal Brexit. These were sourced from a variety of organisations, such as media outlets (BBC, Guardian), business representatives (BRC) and proprietary information from Which?. Many participants expressed surprise at the number and range of consumer issues that could be impacted by a no deal Brexit, such as disruption to the just-in-time food supply chain.

Throughout the community, some participants demonstrated certain beliefs which influenced their opinion of a no deal Brexit and the topics discussed. Some participants dismissed many of the impacts discussed as they assumed they were extremely unlikely to occur. This view stemmed from the belief that it was ‘common sense’ that both the UK and EU would be better off with a deal. There was a similar view that because a no deal Brexit would negatively affect the EU (as well as the UK), a no deal would not occur as the EU would ensure it was avoided. Part of this assumption came from the belief that any negative impacts of Brexit would be a ‘choice’ of the EU, rather than the result of a lack of a deal.


On the final day of the online community, participants were asked what they would think if it was announced a no deal Brexit would go ahead. On the whole, participants said they would feel negative about it, citing various emotions from worry and frustration to anger and disappointment. Participants typically mentioned impacts broader than just those that specifically affect consumers – such as on the economy and jobs.

However some participants did not express concern at the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. A few held the view that a bad deal was worse for the UK than a no deal. Others (as covered in the previous section) did not believe any of the negative impacts outlined in the community or the media would come to pass, so were not worried about the prospect of a no deal happening.  Participants generally fell into one of two camps – those that believed no deal was better than a bad deal, or those that thought no deal was worse than any deal, including a bad one.

To download and read the full research report detailing our consumer insight on the impact of a no deal Brexit, please click the link below.

No deal Policy Report

Which? also published the report 'Brexit No Deal: A consumer catastrophe' in October 2018, which sets out Which?'s analysis of the consumer impacts of a "no deal" Brexit, should the UK and EU failed to reach an agreement. This report is available here

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