Majority of British public wants to leave EU

Conservatives and Ukip 'at war' as ComRes survey for The Independent finds 54 per cent want Britain to leave the EU provided it could keep its close trade relationship with the bloc

The Conservatives and the United Kingdom Independence Party were "at war" tonight as they both rejected a controversial call by a senior Tory for them to forge an electoral pact.

Michael Fabricant, a Tory vice-chairman, exposed his party's fears about Ukip's advance by proposing the anti-EU party stand aside at the 2015 election in return for a referendum on EU membership. The call struck a chord among many Tory MPs but was disowned by the party leadership.

The turmoil came amid fresh evidence that the public is turning against the European Union. A ComRes survey for The Independent found that a majority of people (54 per cent) want Britain to leave the EU provided it could keep its close trade relationship with the bloc, while 36 per cent disagree.

The finding suggests that Eurosceptics who want the UK to withdraw from the EU might be able to win an “in/out” referendum if they could persuade the public that trade ties with the other 26 EU members would not be damaged. Pro-EU campaigners claim Britain would have little say over trade rules if it left.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage contemptuously dismissed the proposal by Michael Fabricant, a Conservative vice-chairman, for an electoral pact with the Tories. Mr Fabricant provoked uproar by suggesting that Ukip could step aside at the next election in return for a promise by the Prime Minister to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, as The Independent disclosed yesterday.

Mr Farage insisted his party was “at war” with the Tories, declaring that he could not even contemplate speaking to them while Mr Cameron was leader because he had broken a previous promise to hold a Europe referendum.

The Conservatives “categorically” ruled out any prospect of a deal. Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, said: “I want to win the next election outright of course for the Conservatives so that we have an outright majority and we don’t have to be in coalition.”

A Tory spokesman said: “Michael Fabricant does a great job campaigning in by-elections but he doesn’t speak for the party on this issue. The safest way to protect Britain’s interest in Europe is to vote Conservative. That’s why we’ll have Conservative candidates in every seat at the next election.”

But Mr Fabricant won the support of fellow Tory MP Stewart Jackson, who warned that Ukip could do “very serious damage” to the Conservatives at the ballot box. He called on the Prime Minister to “show real leadership” by calling a referendum on EU membership alongside the next general election.

According to ComRes, people are evenly divided on whether Britain should remain a full member of the EU. Some 46 per cent agree, while 45 per cent disagree. Those aged 18-34 are the most likely age group to agree (71 per cent), compared to 34 per cent of those aged 65 and over.

Labour’s 11-point lead in its last survey for The Independent four weeks ago has dropped to seven points. Labour is on 42 per cent (down two points), the Conservatives 35 per cent (up two points), the Liberal Democrats 10 per cent (down two points) and others 13 per cent (up two points). The figures would give Labour an overall majority of 84.

Ukip is up one point to 6 per cent. Some 7 per cent of people who voted Conservative at the 2010 election now support Ukip, as do 3 per cent those who voted Labour.

ComRes interviewed 1,002 GB adults by telephone between 23-25 November. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. Data were also weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

World's most experimental science labs

The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

HMS Saracen

Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

7/7 bombings 10 years on

Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'