Brexit: Political will of the people 'must be in question' as 55 per cent now want to stay in EU, poll finds

Remain would secure 55 per cent majority if EU referendum were re-run, analysis of British Social Attitudes Survey respondents suggests 

Adam Lusher
Tuesday 26 March 2019 11:19 GMT
Incredible bird's eye view of Put it to the People march across central London

Brexit has ceased to be the “will of the people” and in a second referendum 55 per cent would vote Remain, analysis of British Social Attitudes Survey respondents has suggested.

The new National Centre for Social Research data also found that just six per cent now think the UK will secure a good Brexit deal - a massive reduction from the 33 per cent who were optimistic about the outcome of negotiations when the Article 50 process was triggered in March 2017.

The findings have led the centre’s senior research fellow Sir John Curtice to warn MPs discussing Brexit in Parliament: “There is seemingly room for debate about whether leaving the EU is still the ‘will’ of a majority of voters in the UK.

“Perhaps the key message for the politicians as they decide what to do is that those on all sides of the argument might be best advised to show a degree of humility when claiming to know what voters really want.”

The centre’s analysis was based on interviews conducted between 24 January and 17 February with 2,654 adults who had previously participated in the British Social Attitudes Survey.

It found that only 79 per cent of those who voted Leave in the 2016 referendum said they would vote for Brexit again. The analysis found that nearly two-thirds of ex-Leave supporters now thought Brexit would be bad for the British economy.

The researchers also found that another factor in the apparent swing to Remain was the tendency of those who didn’t vote in the 2016 referendum to say they would now vote to stay in the EU. Fully 56 per cent of the previous non-participants said they would now vote Remain, compared with only 19 per cent who now backed Leave.

When researchers extrapolated from the survey data to see what the outcome would be if the electorate were again asked the 2016 EU referendum question - ‘Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?’ – they found a hypothetical 55 per cent majority for Remain.

This would suggest the 52-48 Leave vote registered in the 2016 EU referendum had now become a 55-45 majority in favour of Remain.

Online petition urging Government to cancel Brexit becomes most popular to be submitted with more than 4,150,000 signatures

Sir John issued a note of caution by saying: “The Remain lead in our data is not sufficiently large for anyone to be sure what the outcome of any second ballot would be, especially as any such ballot would occur after a campaign that might result in a shift of opinion in one direction or the other.”

Given the importance to the new apparent Remain majority of people who did not vote in 2016, Sir John also warned: “There must be a question mark about whether those who did not vote first time around would necessarily do so second time around."

But he concluded the new data clearly showed a “potential frailty of arguments that leaving the EU is necessarily the ‘will’ of a majority of the British public.

“It is enough to raise doubts about whether, two and half years after the original ballot, leaving the EU necessarily continues to represent the view of a majority of the British public.

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