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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

British 'would vote against Brexit' in second referendum

As no-deal fears grow, new report finds voters worried Brexit will damage UK economy

Voters are worried about Theresa May's handling of Brexit negotiations, a new study claimed. Bloomberg
Voters are worried about Theresa May's handling of Brexit negotiations, a new study claimed. Bloomberg

The British public would vote to remain in the European Union in the event of a second referendum, a study by a leading social research institute found.

Research by NatCen based on repeated interviews with the same 2,048 people over two years found many voters who backed Brexit now worried it would damage the economy.

“As many as 59 percent said they would vote Remain in another referendum, while only 41 per cent indicated they would back Leave,” the report stated. “This is by far and away the highest the level of support for Remain that we have recorded.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out the prospect of a second referendum, which she said would be “a gross betrayal of our democracy”.

However, calls for a second vote are growing louder amid fears Britain will crash out of the EU without a trade deal on March 29, 2019.

The main opposition Labour party has not ruled out holding a national vote on the terms of the final deal.

One of Labour’s biggest backers, the GMB trade union, came out on Tuesday in support of a second referendum and yesterday Labour's Andy Burnham, mayor of Manchester, said he would reluctantly support a second vote if the alternative was leaving without a deal.

He told BBC radio: “I have real concerns about a second vote. It would cause real unrest on the streets of Greater Manchester… But there is something worse than having another vote and that is crashing out of the European Union without a deal.

“So as a last resort, when everything else has failed, when we have tried to extend Article 50 [of the 2007 Lisbon Treaty] to get more time. Then and only then should we consider holding a second vote.”

Mrs May said she is confident Britain will leave the EU with a deal.

The Conservative government’s handling of the Brexit negotiations is a growing concern for many voters, the NatCen study found, comparing public opinion from the beginning of 2017.

“The reputation of the UK government has seemingly suffered more than that of the EU from the perceived progress of the Brexit talks to date,” the report said.

Today the government suffered another blow from former Bank of England governor and Brexit supporter Lord Mervyn King, who hit out at Mrs May’s cabinet for its handling of the negotiations.

Lord King said the government did not have a “credible bargaining position” in Brussels because it had not made sufficient preparations for a no-deal scenario.

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He said it “beggared belief” that one of the richest countries in the world was talking about stockpiling food and medicine.

“Frankly, if a government cannot take action to prevent some of these catastrophic outcomes, whatever position you take on the EU, it illustrates a whole lack of preparation,” Lord King told the BBC.

“It doesn’t tell us anything about whether the policy of staying in the EU is good or bad, it tells us everything about the incompetence of the preparation for it.”

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