Government failing to ‘take back control’ of borders post-Brexit, say voters as Channel crossings surge

Only one in five say Priti Patel handling migrant crisis well

Adam Forrest
Thursday 02 December 2021 18:17
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Brexit voter fails to name a single law he says he voted to take back control of

Two in three voters believe Boris Johnson’s government is failing in its aim to “take back control” of Britain’s borders after Brexit, a new poll shows.

The prime minister claimed the government had fulfilled the Leave campaign slogan and “taken back control” of the UK’s borders after he forged an exit deal with the EU at the end of 2020.

But amid the ongoing surge in small boats crossings in the Channel, only 27 per cent of voters say the government have done “well” to take control of the borders, according to a Savanta ComRes survey.

Some 64 per cent of adults told the pollster the government had done “badly” on the issue, with similar proportions of Conservative voters (63 per cent) and Leave voters (65 per cent) saying the same.

Just one in five voters say home secretary Priti Patel has handled the Channel crossings issue well (21 per cent). And only 24 per cent of voters thought Mr Johnson had responded well to the crisis.

However, some of the prime minister’s proposals to tackled the small boat crossings – outlined in his controversial letter to French president Emmanuel Macron – are popular with a majority of voters.

Six in ten UK adults overall (58 per cent), and seven in ten Conservative voters (69 per cent) say that joint patrols of French beaches would be an “effective” way to stop migrants attempting the crossing in small boats.

But another of Downing Street’s requests from France – a bilateral agreement to return migrants to France – is viewed as the most ineffective method to deal with the issue (36 per cent say it would ineffective) amongst voters.

Paris has rejected the idea of a bilateral deal on returns, insisting that any agreement would have to be forged between the UK and the EU as a bloc. The French have also thus far dismissed the idea of joint patrols as a matter of “sovereignty”.

Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta ComRes, said it was “fair to wonder” if the borders issue could develop into an electoral problem for the Tory party.

“With the government seen to be performing badly on something as dyed in the wool as ‘taking back control’, things must be pretty dire,” said the pollster.

Mr Hopkins added that the Channel crisis creates political difficulties “particularly among voters who, in voting for Brexit and trusting Boris Johnson to get Brexit done, would have expected the UK to unilaterally be able to prevent such a crisis”.

The findings come as a separate Ipsos Mori survey found a majority of MPs think Brexit will have a bigger long-term impact on the economy than Covid.

Some 60 per cent of MPs said effect of the UK’s exit from the EU will have more effect that coronavirus over the next five years, according to the survey carried out for UK in a Changing Europe.

The poll for the think tank’s What Do MPs Think? report found 87 per cent of Labour MPs think Brexit will have the greater long-term consequences on the economy. Some 38 per cent of Tory MPs agree, and only 28 per cent said Covid would have more of an impact

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