Brexit: Majority of Britons Want to Stay in European Union, New Poll Says

A new poll suggests that the majority of Britons would vote to cancel Brexit if offered their say in a second referendum.

Excluding those who were unsure, 53 percent of voters surveyed say they would now vote to remain in the European Union, compared with 47 percent who wish to leave, The Evening Standard newspaper reported. When the referendum was held in 2016, the leave side won with 52 percent of the vote.

The YouGov study of 10,000 British adults suggests the public’s opinion on Brexit is shifting. With 231 days left until the U.K. is supposed to leave the EU, there is still no agreed-upon plan in place to smooth the country’s move out of the bloc. Ministers have been preoccupied with elections and infighting, prompting fears of a “hard Brexit” that could cause travel chaos, economic isolation and currency collapse.

RTX6C1V0 Pro–European Union demonstrators wave flags outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, on July 17. A new poll suggests that the majority of Britons would vote to cancel Brexit if offered their say in a second referendum. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

A group of British politicians have formed the People’s Vote campaign to lobby for a second referendum on Brexit once the final terms have been agreed on—assuming negotiators are even able to reach a deal with their EU counterparts. The poll found that 45 percent of those surveyed want a say on the outcome of negotiations, with only 34 percent opposed.

If talks break down entirely, half of voters believe whether to continue with Brexit or not should be up to the public. One quarter said the U.K. Parliament should make the decision.

A hypothetical “no-deal” hard Brexit scenario edged support further toward the remain side, at 56 percent, compared with 44 percent who want to leave. Prime Minister Theresa May has already said the government is stockpiling food and medical supplies in the event of a hard Brexit, prompting concern across the country at just how bad the situation could get. The British army has been put on standby to help deal with possible civil disorder, and the government has reportedly discussed canceling all police vacation time around Brexit day.

Seventy-three percent of voters believe that many promises made by the "leave" campaign—which was found to have broken election laws—would not be kept. Sixty-eight percent believe the U.K. will get a bad deal, and 64 percent would blame the government if it did.

RTX5QSTS Anti-Brexit protesters display a boxful of cupcakes during a demonstration in front of the Houses of Parliament, in London, on April 16. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

The former president of YouGov, Peter Kellner, told The Standard that the figures are “politically significant.” He explained, “Across the spectrum, the message from voters in this survey is clear: If the government and Parliament can't sort out Brexit, the people should.”

Supporters of the left-wing Labour Party overwhelmingly backed remaining in the EU, with 77 percent in favor of staying with the bloc. Most also support a public vote on the final deal, 63 percent to 18 percent.

The Brexit question is a thorny issue for the party. Labour has traditionally been reliant on working class votes to win elections, but poorer and less educated people are more likely to have voted to leave the EU.

The party’s divisive leader Jeremy Corbyn is a longtime opponent of the European project, his left-wing views clashing with the free market capitalist vision promoted by Brussels. Corbyn unexpectedly became leader of the party in 2015, having been put forward more as a protest candidate than a mainstream contender. His stance on Brexit is one of several that have put him at odds with the party’s center-left members, whose ideology held sway when Tony Blair was in office.

The U.K. is careering toward Brexit despite many outstanding questions about the referendum. The vote was advisory, not legally binding, meaning the government had no strict obligation to follow through on leaving the bloc. However, pressure from anti-EU members and voters means neither of the major two parties has taken an anti-Brexit stance, despite fears of what it could mean for the British economy.

RTX39FJL Workers are pictured behind images of Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, in London, on June 7, 2017. Both leaders have been struggling to form a coherent approach to Brexit. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

There have also been allegations that Russian influence had swung the vote toward "leave." President Vladimir Putin is hostile to any multinational western organizations, and the European project is no exception. Prominent members of the "leave" campaign are known to have business links to Kremlin-backed companies and individuals, raising questions about Moscow’s influence on the vote.

May has repeatedly stressed that “the will of the people” must be delivered in the form of Brexit. Opponents, however, say voters did not know what they were demanding. The referendum voting slips asked whether the U.K. should “Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union.” There was no other information given, and the lack of a clear plan for departure has been one of the main problems in the ongoing Brexit debacle.

May has published her own Brexit plan, which would keep the U.K. aligned to the bloc in numerous aspects.Though this would smooth the transition and protect the economy, hard Brexit supporters within the prime minister's Conservative Party say it would leave the U.K. a “vassal state.” Party infighting after May revealed the Chequers Plan threatened to bring the prime minister down, and could yet cause an irreparable split within the party.

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