Coronavirus: Public wants Brexit extension to allow for focus on pandemic, poll suggests

Survey finds support from both Conservative and Brexit Party voters for extension of transition period

Vincent Wood
Monday 20 April 2020 21:59
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Brexit briefing: How long until the end of the transition period?

A majority of the public would rather see the government extend its Brexit deadline than deal with negotiations while coronavirus continues to rage through Europe, a poll has suggested.

Officials in Westminster and Brussels have insisted on continuing to negotiate the UK’s future relationship with the EU despite the impact of the virus that has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people across the continent.

However, a poll conducted by Focaldata for Best for Britain and Hope Not Hate has suggested a majority of the public would prefer it if officials kept their eyes on the crisis at hand, with two-thirds saying the government should focus all its energy on dealing with Covid-19 for the rest of the year.

And of those who supported an extension, 64 per cent wanted the transition period to be extended “indefinitely until the crisis is resolved”, while 36 per cent wanted the transition period to be extended “for a maximum of a year”.

But 34 per cent of all respondents said they believed ministers could “balance dealing with the coronavirus outbreak whilst also giving necessary time to negotiate a full trade deal with the EU before the end of the year”.

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While there was strong support among Labour and SNP voters for pushing the end of the transition period past New Year’s Eve, some 49 per cent of Leave voters also supported the measure – as well as 48 per cent of Conservative voters and 45 per cent of those who previously backed the Brexit Party.

Best for Britain chief executive Naomi Smith said: “There is clear support in Scotland and other nations and regions of the UK for an extension, and the views of small ‘c’ conservative voters in our data is telling.

“It’s patronising to suggest they would punish the government at the ballot box for prioritising the country’s health over an arbitrary exit date.

“They are compromising. It may not be their preference, but everyone can see that the government is overwhelmed by the task at hand and needs no further distractions.

“The government must take this opportunity to unchain itself, and most importantly our economy, from the 31 December exit date.”

Last month Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said the virus had made “the case for intensive diplomacy to get this deal done and move on” to forge a future relationship with the EU.

At the time he added: “I don’t think delaying the Brexit negotiations would give anyone on either side of the Channel the certainty they need.”

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