LONDON — Conservative voters are now more protectionist in their views about foreign investment than Labour or Liberal Democrat voters, according to polling seen by POLITICO.
The figures are a part of a set of polling results which show that the British public as a whole has grown wary of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Britain, particularly from China.
New polling from communications and advisory firm Hanbury Strategy revealed that the average 2019 Labour voter was 51 percent positive about a foreign firm buying a British firm, while a 2019 Conservative voter was 47 percent positive.
The average Lib Dem voter was 56 percent positive, according to the poll.
The polling also shows that 39 percent of Conservative voters think overseas companies should not own British companies, compared to 33 percent of Labour voters and 33 percent of Lib Dem voters.
Just 27 percent of Brits surveyed said they would be optimistic about foreign interests taking over a domestic company.
Sentiment was similar in the U.S., with 22 percent of Americans saying they would be optimistic about a foreign firm taking over a domestic company.
The polling may be seen as a result of prevailing western national security concerns about foreign investment from China and the increasingly protectionist policies that have been pursued in the U.S. since Donald Trump’s election as president in 2016.
The U.K. followed America’s lead in 2020, introducing the National Security and Investment Act to screen foreign investment into sensitive U.K. industries and banning Chinese firm Huawei from helping build Britain’s 5G network.
Ameet Gill, partner at Hanbury, said that “Western countries and the political movements that have driven globalization are now themselves pulling up the drawbridge.”
“Investors need to understand the concerns of local people and take action to demonstrate how they will improve their lives,” he added.
A government spokesperson said: “Our recent Public Attitudes to Trade survey found that, far from becoming more protectionist, over two-thirds of the British public are positive about the impact of trade on the U.K. economy, up 5 percent on the previous year.
“We are proud that the U.K. is one of the world’s top destinations for foreign inward investment, worth over £2 trillion.”