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Analysis

Parliament is in turmoil. But what do the public think?

by Luke Lythgoe | 18.03.2019

Westminster doesn’t know what it’s doing. But what about the public? A new survey by YouGov revealed lots of good news for supporters of a public vote on Brexit.

Support for public vote

Having been almost equally split over a public vote a month ago, people now back one by 57% to 43% once “don’t know” responses are stripped away.

Majority would vote to stay in EU

The public would prefer to stay in the EU to the government’s deal by 60% to 40%. And they prefer to stay in the EU to leaving with “no deal” by 56% to 44% (both when “don’t knows” are removed).

Not a re-run of the 2016 referendum

Opponents of a new referendum say it’s an attempt to re-run the 2016 vote. That’s not how the public see it. Less than a quarter consider either of the votes described above as a re-run of 2016.

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What about alternatives to May’s deal?

Brexit-backing politicians talk about “honouring” the 2016 referendum result. But what does the public thinks that means? Only a minority believe the result would be honoured if:

  • negotiations on a future deal with the EU continued for years (28%);
  • the UK kept paying large sums of money to the EU and following many of its rules and regulations (13%);
  • free movement rules went largely unchanged (25%).

All of those would be true for “softer” forms of Brexit, such as the Norway Plus model or Labour’s alternative proposal. Indeed, the first applies to May’s deal as well – and, depending on how the negotiations go, they all might.

And while a majority (46%) thought that “no deal” would honour the 2016 referendum, only 26% thought the result would be honoured if the UK suffered significant losses in trade, investment and growth. Crashing out with no deal would be sure to have this impact.

No politicians coming out well

Theresa May’s doggedness has not won her many fans among the voting public. 49% think she should resign and someone else should take over Brexit. But when given a choice of seven of the most likely Tory candidates to take over in Number 10, 40% of survey respondents chose “none of those” instead – some 27 points ahead of the top pick, Boris Johnson.

But there’s nothing for Jeremy Corbyn to crow about. His shadow Brexit secretary scored higher than him on which politicians the public thought would be best placed to carry on the Brexit negotiations.

European elections are nothing to be scared of

Fears that holding European Parliament elections on May 23 would result in a far-right landslide might be misplaced. People who voted Remain in 2016 are much more likely to turn out to vote than Leavers – with 55% of Remain voters certain to take part versus 40% of Leave voters. Meanwhile, 22% of Leave voters said they definitely wouldn’t vote, compared to just 6% of pro-Europeans.

Public support is moving towards a new vote on Brexit and staying in the EU. Let’s build on the momentum by marching through the streets of London this Saturday with hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens to demand that Brexit is put to the people.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

5 Responses to “Parliament is in turmoil. But what do the public think?”

  • As an 88 year old and long time supporter of the EU I am no longer fit enough to take part in the walk, but I should like everyone to know that they have the full support of myself and my 82 year old wife.

  • Judging by conversations I have had on social media, many leave voters seem convinced that the European parliament is full of ‘unelected bureaucrats’. Voting in European elections probably seems somewhat redundant to them in that case.