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The North East of England is no longer backing Brexit - poll

PUBLISHED: 22:00 22 August 2018

Tyne for a rethink

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The North East of England, which voted overwhelmingly for Brexit in 2016, is now an exact 50/50 even split about whether to leave or stay, according to a new YouGov poll.

It comes as the People’s Vote campaign, which is calling for a referendum on any final deal, publishes a detailed impact study on how Brexit would affect the North East.

It shows the region is expected to lose 10% of GDP over the next decade under a 'no-deal' Brexit, meaning every man, woman and child in the North East would be £3,000 a year worse off.

Building on the success of the People’s Vote march in London in June, hundreds of people will come together in a rally at the Assembly Rooms in Newcastle on Saturday to add to momentum for a referendum on the deal.

Publication tonight of the poll of almost 1,000 adults across the North East shows strong support in the region for a People’s Vote on any final Brexit deal which is now favoured by a margin of 40% to 35%.

But if talks break down, or there is no agreement on a Brexit deal, 54% would back the public being given the final say, against just 22% who say MPs should the take the decision.

The disappearance of the Leave campaign’s 16-point margin of victory from two years ago appears to have been driven by younger voters, with those aged under 50 dividing two-to-one for staying in the EU while voters over 50 are still two-to-one in favour of Brexit.

The findings of today’s poll is being seized upon by Labour MPs in the region backing a People’s Vote who want their party leadership to reflect better the views of members and voters.

In the North East, Labour supporters now want to stay in the EU by almost three-to-one – 73% to 27% once “don’t knows” are taken out.

A similar proportion of Labour supporters – 57% to 21% – want a People’s Vote on Brexit, with a further 23 per cent saying they “don’t know”.

And despite claims that many of Labour’s supporters backed Brexit because of a desire to control immigration from the EU, the findings tonight show that the party’s voters would prefer to keep the trade on which so much of the region’s industries depend.

If forced to choose between free trade with Europe or controlling immigration, Labour voters back free trade over controlling immigration by a margin of more than four-to-one (63% to 15%). Voters across the region as a whole say it is more important for the UK to trade freely with the EU than to have control over immigration by 47% to 31%.

Peter Kellner, a former president of YouGov, said: “On the night of the Brexit referendum two years ago, the early results from the North East showed the strength of Leave support, especially in Labour’s northern heartlands.

"YouGov’s new survey shows that a public vote today would produce a very different result. Instead of the crushing 16-point victory for the Leave campaign two years ago, the two sides are running neck-and-neck, with both on 50%.

“The swing in the North East is higher than the national average and there is a clear reason for this. The region is more strongly Labour than any other: the party has 26 of the North East’s 29 MPs.

"And while the views of the relatively small number of Conservative voters towards Brexit are virtually unchanged, Labour voters have moved from 59% to 68% Remain.

“The shift is particularly pronounced among younger working class voters. Two years ago, by a narrow 52-48 per cent margin, those under 40 voted Leave. Today, the same respondents back Remain by 61%-39% - a four-point Leave advantage then has been transformed into a 22-point Remain lead today.

“By 54%-22% Labour voters also back a public vote when the Brexit negotiations are complete. The political significance of this is hard to overstate.

"Labour’s leadership, and many of its MPs, have been cautious about backing UK membership of the EU, or supporting a public vote, for fear of alienating pro-Brexit Labour voters. This survey shows that the reason for fear has significantly diminished – and the greater danger now for Labour could be to alienate the big and growing majority of pro-EU and pro-public-vote majority among Labour supporters, even in the party’s heartlands.”

Phil Wilson, Labour MP for Tony Blair's former constituency of Sedgefield and a leading supporter of the People’s Vote, said: “Brexit is the greatest issue facing the country since the Second World War and it is only right that the British people are given the opportunity to test their original decision to Leave the EU in light of the facts we now know that we didn’t know then.

"That is why I believe people should have a right to a final vote on the final deal, whatever it is.

“I know the North East voted for Brexit, but attitudes and minds are starting to change. Democracy did not end on June 23, 2016. And today we can see attitudes are changing.

"I believe Brexit is a moral issue for politicians. Those who believe Brexit will be a disaster for the UK can no longer remain silent. It’s time to speak up for a People’s Vote on the final deal.”

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