Only one in 10 want extra time to be wasted on Theresa May's disastrous deal

PUBLISHED: 10:43 20 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:44 20 March 2019

Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 27, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 27, 2019. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

A majority of British voters now favour an extension of the Brexit deadline but just one in 10 believe any extra time should be used to revive Theresa May's deal, according to a new YouGov poll.

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The findings come on the eve of a crunch meeting of the European Council where the prime minister is expected to ask for an Article 50 extension following the government’s latest failure to force its Brexit deal through parliament.

A total of 52% of people now want the deadline pushed back, compared to 35% who say the UK should leave next week on March 29.

Just 10% of the 2,000 people surveyed believe any extra time should be used only to make fresh efforts at getting the prime minister’s deal over the line - with the overwhelming majority of those backing an extension saying they want MPs to consider other options including a softer Brexit, a General Election or a new public vote.

But there is little encouragement in this poll for supporters of other Brexit proposals, with voters declaring by substantial margins these would not follow the mandate of the 2016 referendum. A mere 13% of voters back the so-called Norway option for Brexit in which the UK would remain in a customs union and single market relationship after leaving the EU.

Instead, a majority of those expressing their opinion in this survey say, by 56% to 44%, they want a new public vote on Britain’s future relationship with the EU to settle the issue.

The polling, conducted for the People’s Vote campaign, shows that if people are given the chance in a new vote, a clear majority would prefer to stay in the EU rather than support either the prime minister’s proposed terms for Brexit or leave without any deal.

Staying in the EU would beat the current Brexit deal by 60% to 40% in a fresh public vote – and also defeat a “no-deal” departure from the EU 56% to 44%.

The view of Peter Kellner, former President of YouGov

Down the years, poll after poll has testified to British pragmatism. We generally welcome compromise solutions to tough problems. Most of us like to live at or near the political centre. We prefer practical policies to clever theories.

Brexit is different. Few voters favour any of the attempts that different politicians have made to build consensus somewhere between No Deal and No Brexit. A clear majority rejects the government’s Withdrawal Agreement. An even larger majority dislikes a softer Brexit, with Remain voters regarding it as a poor substitute for EU membership – and Leave voters viewing it as a betrayal of the 2016 referendum result. And a mere 10 per cent back Theresa May’s plan for a short delay to Brexit. More than three out of four voters want either Brexit to go ahead next week without a deal, or to extend the Article 50 for long enough to solve the problem properly.

The emphatic rejection of a short delay and compromise outcome is clear; and so is the preference of most voters for Remain over no-deal. By a 12-point margin, voters would vote for the UK to stay in the EU than to depart without a deal. The true gap may be even larger: polls find consistently that Remain supporters are more determined than Leave supporters to vote in a new referendum. If this were a general election, a victory by 12 per cent-plus would be a landslide.

All this means that MPs must grapple with two large truths. British voters overwhelmingly reject the prime minister’s current plan for a short delay. They also oppose a split-the-difference Brexit. At the same time, the business community, equally overwhelmingly, warns of the perils of leaving the EU without a deal.

It is now hard to see any outcome that won’t annoy a large number of voters. However, the economic risks of going ahead with No Deal, and the political dangers of implementing the Withdrawal Agreement or soft Brexit, all look to be greater than giving voters the chance in a new referendum to decide whether to leave the EU at all.

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