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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Polls show half of Britons want new Brexit referendum

Dismay over Brexit prospects triggers shift in public mood against project

Further problems loom on the horizon for UK Prime Minister Theresa May as a poll has found that 65 per cent of voters think her Brexit plan will result in a bad deal. Reuters 
Further problems loom on the horizon for UK Prime Minister Theresa May as a poll has found that 65 per cent of voters think her Brexit plan will result in a bad deal. Reuters 

Two-thirds of Britons now think the government will end up with a bad deal when Britain leaves the European Union early next year, and half want the chance to vote on what happens next.

With less than eight months until Britain is due to leave the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May has yet to find a proposal to maintain economic ties with the bloc that pleases both sides of her divided party and is acceptable to negotiators in Brussels.

A Sky News poll said 65 per cent of British voters thought the government would end up with a bad deal - an increase of 15 points from March - and half supported a referendum to choose between leaving with a deal, leaving without a deal or staying in the EU. The poll indicated 40 per cent opposed such a vote, while 10 per cent did not know.

When asked to choose between three options - Mrs May's deal, a no deal or staying in the EU - 48 per cent said they would prefer to stay in the EU, 27 per cent wanted to leave with no deal and 13 per cent would opt for the government's deal.

Sky Data interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,466 Sky customers online between July 20 and 23. The data is weighted according to the profile of the UK population.

The shift in public opinion comes as Mrs May has stepped up planning for a so called "no-deal" Brexit that would see the world's fifth largest economy crash out of the EU on March 29, 2019, without a trade agreement.

A separate poll on Friday suggested that the proportion of voters who favour a referendum on the final terms of any Brexit deal has overtaken those who do not, for the first time.

Mrs May has repeatedly ruled out holding another public vote on Brexit, saying the population spoke in the June 23, 2016, referendum, in which 51.9 per cent of the votes cast backed leaving the EU while 48.1 per cent backed staying.

Her main opponents in parliament, the Labour Party, are also not advocating a second referendum, meaning that, despite growing support and a vocal campaign for another vote, there is no obvious path in which one can take place.

However, the potential for major political upheaval remains, with Mrs May's minority government facing a series of make-or-break moments in the Brexit process over the coming months.

The prime minister must find a way to strike a deal with the EU, which has already rejected her preferred plan on trade, and then sell that deal to the deeply divided Conservative Party, before putting it to a vote in parliament. Failure at any one of those three hurdles could cost Mrs May her job.

The Sky poll found 78 per cent of voters thought Mrs May's government was doing a bad job of negotiating Brexit, up 23 percentage points from March. Just 10 per cent thought the government was doing a good job.

Earlier this month, the government set out in detail for the first time what kind of trading arrangement it wants with the EU after leaving the bloc, triggering a political crisis in which two senior ministers resigned in protest, saying Mrs May was watering down Brexit.

Since March, the proportion of those satisfied with the prime minister's performance has fallen to 24 per cent, down 17 percentage points, the Sky poll showed.

Voters were split on whether Brexit would be good or bad for the country: 40 per cent said it would be good and 51 per cent said it would be bad.