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Brexit: UK public overwhelmingly oppose Theresa May's plan to leave EU with no deal in place, new poll reveals

Exclusive: Even Tory voters do not give majority support to leave the EU with no deal if Parliament rejects the terms Ms May agrees with Brussels

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Monday 06 March 2017 22:05 GMT
A BMG poll showed that 38 per cent of the public approved of the way the Prime Minister has handled Brexit up to now, with 33 per cent disapproving
A BMG poll showed that 38 per cent of the public approved of the way the Prime Minister has handled Brexit up to now, with 33 per cent disapproving (Getty)

Britons overwhelmingly oppose Theresa May’s plan to quit the EU with no deal in place if Parliament dares to reject the terms she agrees with Brussels, an exclusive poll has revealed.

The BMG Research study showed twice as many people would rather the UK stay in the EU or try and secure a different deal, if MPs and Lords do not endorse the agreement the Prime Minister returns from Europe with.

The survey for The Independent also showed the public are bracing themselves for a Brexit hit on the economy over the next two years as painstaking negotiations over future relations play out.

It comes ahead of a major stand-off between Ms May’s Government and the House of Lords, which is demanding Parliament be guaranteed in law the final say on approving her Brexit deal and given power to send her back to the negotiating table if it is rejected.

So far Ms May has only given a verbal assurance Parliament will have a vote on her deal and has warned that if MPs and peers ditch her terms, the UK will simply leave the EU without a deal and trade with the bloc on World Trade Organisation rules – something many believe will be hugely damaging to the economy.

Asked what “should happen next” if Parliament rejects Ms May’s deal, just 25 per cent said “we should leave the EU with no set future relations in place and revert to trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation rules.”

A greater proportion, 27 per cent, said Ms May should try to renegotiate a deal, 14 per cent said we should stay in the EU on new terms that Ms May should try to negotiate and 15 per cent said we should stay in on existing terms – a total of 56 per cent who favoured options at odds with the Prime Minister’s plan to quit and trade on WTO rules.

Sir John Major criticises Theresa May's Brexit strategy

Even among Tory voters only 38 per cent backed leaving with no deal, while 38 per cent supported renegotiating and a further 18 per cent opting for staying in the EU on existing or new terms.

Only last week, ex-Tory Prime Minister Sir John Major warned that quitting with no deal would be “the worst possible outcome” for Britain with “worrying implications for public services such as the NHS”.

On Tuesday the House of Lords is expected to vote on a proposed change to Ms May’s Article 50 bill, the legislation mandating her to trigger Brexit, that would give Parliament the right in law to approve or reject her withdrawal deal.

With some Tory peers, including Michael Heseltine, signalling they will back the move, the Government could be set for another embarrassing defeat in the upper Chamber.

The Lords have already dealt one blow to Ms May’s hopes of gaining smooth passage for her bill, after voting for an amendment that would guarantee the right of EU citizens who lived in the UK before Brexit, to live and work here after withdrawal.

With a second defeat pending on what is now being called the “meaningful vote” amendment, Ms May’ official spokesman warned on Monday that any attempt to give Parliament the final say over Brexit terms would actually “incentivise” the EU to give Britain a bad deal.

He said: “She believes we should not commit to any process that would incentivise the EU to offer us a bad deal.

“If we are in a position where any deal negotiated by the Prime Minister could be rejected by MPs, that gives strength potentially to other parties in the negotiation.”

Lord Heseltine has already said he would vote against the Government on the matter because he believes the public should have a chance to change their minds on Brexit.

Some Tory MPs have also now indicated they may oppose Ms May on the “meaningful vote” plan, if ministers do not do more to lock in Parliament’s role in approving the final deal.

All changes proposed in the Lords, where the Tories are in a minority, must later be approved by the Commons, where Ms May has a slim majority, if they are to be written into statute.

Gina Miller, the campaigner who fought and beat the Government in the Supreme Court Brexit case which eventually guaranteed the right of Parliament to trigger Article 50, has argued that the judgment she won, along with separate legal advice, demands Ms May must secure a separate act of Parliament before taking the UK out of the EU with no deal.

Government suffers defeat in Lords over plan to begin Brexit negotiations

The BMG poll showed that 38 per cent of the public approved of the way Ms May has handled Brexit up to now, with 33 per cent disapproving and 29 per cent saying they “don’t know”.

Opinion was less equivocal when people were asked – “do you think the Brexit negotiations over the next two years will have a positive or a negative impact on the British economy?”

Some 43 per cent said the impact would be bad, of which 14 per cent thought it would be “very bad”. Meanwhile 33 per cent thought it would be good with seven per cent thinking it would be “very good”. Just under a quarter, 24 per cent, thought there would be no impact.

Source Note: BMG Research interviewed a representative sample of 1,576 adults living in Great Britain online between 27 Feb to 3 Mar 2017. Data are weighted. BMG are members of the British Polling Council and abide by their rules

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