- New poll finds clear majority want Theresa May to focus on maintaining free trade rather than cutting immigration.
- Most voters would be satisfied with staying inside the market even if it meant immigration continued at current levels.
- Voters want May to push to stay inside a reformed single market, rather than simply leave.
- Findings come as May comes under growing business pressure to change course.
LONDON — Theresa May is committed to leaving the European single market after Brexit, insisting that this would be the only way of respecting the result of the EU referendum.
However, a new poll out today finds a clear majority of the British people now want the government to instead focus on keeping Britain inside the market, rather than simply focusing on cutting immigration.
The ComRes poll for the BBC found that 66% of all UK voters believe that maintaining free trade with the EU should be the prime minister’s priority in Brexit negotiations, compared to just 31% who believe she should prioritise reducing immigration.
ComRes / BBC poll: Which should be the priority for the British Government when negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU?
- Maintaining access to the single market so Britain can have free trade with the EU: 66%
- Restricting the freedom of movement so immigration from the EU is reduced: 31%
A further 51% say they would be “satisfied” if Britain maintained access to the single market, even if it meant that EU immigration continued, compared to 45% who would be dissatisfied.
Staying inside a reformed single market
Most British people now say they want May to stay inside a reformed single market, rather than simply leave. 52% want the UK to stay with extra limits on immigration and a further 18% want to stay under current rules. Just 26% support May’s current policy of leaving the single market in order to end the free movement of people.
ComRes / BBC poll on future relationship with EU
- Stay in the single market with the current rules on free movement: 18%
- Stay in the single market with some limits on free movement: 52%
- Leave the EU single market and end rules on free movement: 26%
The poll also found that a clear majority of all voters (69%) do not expect EU citizens to have to leave after Brexit.
However, there remains a sizeable proportion of UK citizens who do expect Brexit to lead to at least some EU citizens being forced to leave.
27% said they expect some EU citizens living in the UK to have to leave with 10% saying they expected most EU citizens living here after Brexit to have to go. Almost one-in-five of Britain’s least well-off voters expect most EU citizens to be forced to leave.
Pressure grows on May for a softer Brexit
Today’s findings will add to growing pressure from business on the prime minister to soften her position on Britain’s exit from the EU. Over recent months senior business figures have lobbied the government to commit to a lengthy transition period after Brexit in which current immigration rules would continue. This week the prime minister’s spokesman insisted that free movement would end in Spring 2019 but left the door open to similar immigration rules continuing for years to come.
However, May appears reluctant to change stance due to pressure from Brexit-supporters both in the government and the country. A poll out yesterday found that most Leave voters remain committed to Brexit even if it means causing significant damage to the economy. The YouGov poll found that half of all older Brexit voters would still be happy to leave the EU even if it meant their own family members losing their jobs.
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