Poll: Brexit may no longer be the desire of most UK voters

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Leaving the European Union may no longer be the desire of a majority of UK voters, a major survey has suggested.

Those who backed Brexit at the 2016 referendum are becoming increasingly doubtful about the process, with a large majority believing Theresa May’s Government has handled it badly, a poll by Sir John Curtice found.

Pro-Brexit activists hold placards as they demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in central London. Picture: Niklas Halle'n/AFP

Pro-Brexit activists hold placards as they demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in central London. Picture: Niklas Halle'n/AFP

Sir John, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said it was “enough to raise doubts about whether, two and half years after the original ballot, leaving the EU necessarily continues to represent the view of a majority of the British public”.

The UK electorate as a whole have also become increasingly critical of how the country’s withdrawal from the EU has been handled, the survey found, and most are now unhappy with the deal that Mrs May has since agreed.

But despite the protracted process of the Brexit negotiations, and the several defeats the UK Government has suffered in the House of Commons, there has not been a significant increase in support for Remain if a second referendum on the matter was to be held.

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The analysis for the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) found that 80 per cent of Leave voters said the government had handled the Brexit negotiations badly, up from 27 per cent in 2017. The figure for all voters was 80 per cent, nearly double the figure two years ago.

A quarter of Leave voters said the UK economy would be worse off after Brexit, up from 15 per in 2017, while 41 per cent said the economy would be better off after Brexit, down from 54 per cent. 
“The very voters who were responsible for giving the politicians their instructions are for the most part unhappy with the way in which those instructions have been implemented,” Sir John said.

The veteran pollster cautioned that the result of a second referendum, if one were to be held, was far from certain.

“Given the potential frailties of all survey work the Remain lead in our data is not sufficiently large for anyone to be sure what the outcome of any second ballot would be, especially as any such ballot would occur after a campaign that might result in a shift of opinion in one direction or the other,” he said.

The SNP’s Brexit spokesman Peter Grant said: “This is a devastating public verdict on the Tories’ handling of negotiations and on the likely impact of Brexit itself, which hardly anyone now believes would deliver a good deal.

“The UK Government has descended into total chaos and Theresa May has now lost control, which is why it is essential that Parliament now drives what happens next.

“Scotland has been utterly ignored throughout the Brexit process, and Westminster’s shambolic mishandling of the issue is making the case for independence stronger by the day.

“Theresa May and her government have proved completely incapable of delivering on the result of the 2016 vote, which is why it is right that the issue of EU membership should now go back to the people.”