Brits want a long Brexit extension to deal with coronavirus - including almost half of Leavers

The union flag colours projected onto 10 Downing Street as the UK leaves the EU. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA.

The union flag colours projected onto 10 Downing Street as the UK leaves the EU. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Two-thirds of Britons want to see an extension to the Brexit transition period, with most preferring a longer extension until the coronavirus crisis has been resolved.

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The Focaldata poll, commissioned by cross-party campaign group Best for Britain and HOPE not hate, comes ahead of the first of three newly scheduled negotiating rounds between the UK and the EU.

The survey of over 2,000 people found that 66% of the public believe the UK government ‘should focus 100% of its energy on dealing with coronavirus for the rest of the year’, including nearly half of Conservative and Leave voters.

Of those who support an extension, 64% want the transition period to be extended ‘indefinitely until the crisis is resolved’.

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Two-thirds of respondents said they thought the government ‘should focus 100% of its energy on dealing with coronavirus for the rest of the year’, whereas only a third (34%) thought the UK government could ‘balance dealing with the coronavirus outbreak whilst also giving necessary time to negotiate a full trade deal with the EU before the end of the year.’

There was agreement among all age groups and UK regions.

Of those who supported an extension, 64% wanted the transition period to be extended ‘indefinitely until the crisis is resolved’, whereas 36% wanted the transition period to be extended ‘for a maximum of a year.’

The survey found 48% of Conservative voters, 45% of Brexit Party voters and 49% of Leave voters want to see an extension so the government spends the rest of the year dealing with coronavirus.

A total of 44% of Conservative voters, 27% of Brexit Party voters, and 43% of Leave voters want a longer extension until the crisis is resolved.

The government has continually ruled out an extension to the transition period, with the International Monetary Fund the latest voice to urge Boris Johnson not to rule one out.

“It is deeply worrying to see the government adopt such an extreme stance on not extending the transition period, when weeks ago it was promising to do ‘whatever it takes’ to beat the virus,” said Best for Britain’s Naomi Smith.

“The views of small ‘c’ conservative voters in our data is telling. It’s patronising to suggest they would punish the government at the ballot box for prioritising the country’s health over an arbitrary exit date.

“They are compromising. It may not be their preference, but everyone can see that the government is overwhelmed by the task at hand and needs no further distractions. The government must take this opportunity to unchain itself, and most importantly our economy, from the 31st December exit date.”

HOPE not hate CEO Nick Lowles added: “Very little progress has been made on key negotiating points such as the level playing field commitments, while in areas such as fishing not even a draft text of our position has been published. That puts us far behind schedule.

“If we cannot agree a trade deal in time, the UK risks a double economic hit caused by a no-deal Brexit and a coronavirus-induced recession.

“We have only one chance to ask for an extension, and that has to be done by the end of June. The government must urgently act to protect businesses and communities across the country.”

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