Poll: Most British people would stay in the EU rather than accept a no-deal Brexit

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  • A new poll finds British voters would prefer to stay in the EU rather than leave without a deal.
  • But a majority of Conservative voters would rather leave without a deal, which illustrates the headache facing Theresa May as she tries to keep her party onside with her Brexit plans.
  • Negotiators hope this week to clinch a final Brexit deal, providing time to sign an agreement off at a special summit of EU leaders in mid-November.

LONDON – British voters would rather stay in the EU than accept leaving without a deal, according to a new poll.

The survey of 3,006 voters for Politico, found that British voters would choose by a margin of 53.5% to remain in the EU if the alternative was leaving under a no-deal scenario “with the potential for disruption,” an option favoured by just 46.5%.

The news is likely to bolster calls from anti-Brexit campaigners for the government to arrange a second Brexit referendum on the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU, with an option to remain on the ballot paper.

But the poll, carried out by Hanbury Strategy for Politico, also illustrates the strategic headache facing Theresa May. Her own voters are much more hardline than the wider electorate, so she must try and keep her own core supporters happy her Brexit strategy while finding a solution which other voters deem suitable.

That dilemma is reflected in other questions in the survey. By 47% to 35%, voters say that May should “compromise” with the EU to get a deal rather than walk away without one in March 2019, when the country is scheduled to leave.

Voters narrowly support extending the twenty-month transition period by 39% to 38% – during which the UK would effectively remain a member of the EU but have no say in decision-making – even if it costs “billions” of pounds to do so.

But among Conservative voters (those who supported the party in the 2017 election), 48% would prefer that Theresa May walked away from the EU without a deal than compromise, compared to 41% who would prefer her to compromise.

May’s dilemma

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Theresa May Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The polling reflects the party’s electoral dilemma as it faces up to the Labour party which is also committed to implementing the EU referendum result. Many Conservative MPs are aware that their success at the next election could depend on them supporting a Brexit outcome which draws the UK away from EU rules and regulations, and is seen to honour the result of the referendum.

But it is increasingly clear that any deal Theresa May brings back from Brussels will be a compromise which contains guarantees to avoid a hard border in Ireland and could therefore keep the UK in parts of the European single market or customs union.

The question of how many Tories would support such a compromise when the deal was put before parliament remains the subject of intense speculation.

Reports emerged over the weekend that the prime minister is close to securing a final deal with Brussels on the terms of the UK’s exit, but EU officials quickly pushed back on the speculation to say the chances of a deal remained at around 50%. The Irish backstop – an insurance policy designed by the EU to avoid a hard border in Ireland – remains the biggest sticking point, with both sides holding on for a compromise from their counterparts.

Nonetheless, negotiators hope that enough progress will be made this week to strike a deal, providing time to sign an agreement off at a special summit of EU leaders in mid-November.