A shock survey of more than 20,000 ordinary voters found overwhelming support amongst both Leavers and Remainers for the PM’s strategy of securing a clean break with the EU.
It finds that two-thirds of people would rather quit with no deal at all than settle for a soft Brexit which would see the UK stay in the Single Market and continue accepting free movement.
The stunning research, carried out by academics at the London School of Economics and Oxford University, is the most comprehensively polling exercise of its type since the referendum.
Rather than being asked simply whether they support EU membership or not, respondents were instead grilled over a series of conditions imposed on Britain as a result of being in the bloc.
It shows that neither Leavers nor Remainers support the continuation of free movement after Brexit, with most people who voted to stay in the EU still backing tougher border controls.
Similarly Remainers have no desire to see Britain continue to subject itself to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) once we have left, with consensus on both sides that the UK should simply adopt the EU laws it thinks is sensible.
And people who voted to Remain in the EU are shown to be just as angry about the bloc’s “extortionate” Brexit bill demands as Leavers. Both sides strongly support a position of making no payment at all.
In a similar vein pro-EU voters do not want to see Britain continue to pay vast sums into Brussels coffers for continued “access” to the bloc, with most saying such contributions should be capped at £1 billion a year.
The stunning dossier, uncovered by BuzzFeed news, blows a huge hole in the strategy of leading Remainers to rally support around a ‘centrist’ position and push for a Norway-style deal.
And it is likely to harden the resolve on Theresa May to stick to her guns over her plans for a clean break despite dissension within the Cabinet ranks, chiefly from Remainer chancellor Philip Hammond.
Professor Sara Hobolt of the LSE – one of the research’s authors – said that there were few signs of regret from voters on either side but added that having voted Remain was no indicator of backing a soft Brexit.
She said: “Our results imply that Leavers are united in strongly favouring a ‘hard Brexit’ because they are generally more likely to oppose any deal that involves continued freedom of movement of people, jurisdiction of the ECJ, and a very large ‘divorce settlement.
“In contrast, Remainers are more divided, with the majority favouring a ‘soft Brexit’, but others favouring aspects of a ‘hard Brexit’. Overall, this means that there is on aggregate higher levels of support for outcomes that resemble the ‘hard Brexit’ position put forward by the government.”
The survey paints the most complete picture yet of the British public’s attitudes towards the EU, and demonstrates the large extent to which many voting to stay in the bloc were ‘reluctant Remainers’.
It lifts the lid on huge dissatisfaction with the project regardless of which way people voted and exposes how small the hard Remain core – so highly vociferous in the press and on social media – really is.
Professor Hobolt said: “Remain voters are willing to acknowledge that there are key negotiation outcomes – e.g. limits to freedom of movement – that they may not like, but that these outcomes still respect the referendum vote and are therefore legitimate.
“In other words, Remain voters concede that the features that lead them to prefer a particular negotiation outcome do not, in fact, respect the referendum.”
The research will also provide a timely fillip for Brexit secretary David Davis, who will now jet out to Brussels for the next round of the divorce negotiations at the end of the month with strong public backing.
Source : EXPRESS