The People’s Vote campaign for a second Brexit referendum is seeking to turn French and German opinion against a “blind Brexit” under which the UK would leave the EU without certainty on the terms of a future trade deal.
Two major European newspapers, Le Monde and Die Welt, have been given a YouGov poll of 10,000 Britons by the campaign group, which shows that 72% of people are opposed to a Brexit in which the details of the future deal are unclear when the UK leaves.
The polling suggests that if the British public are made aware before the UK’s withdrawal on 29 March 2019 of the limited nature of the EU’s offer, and the lack of the protections for the British economy, support for a second referendum – which could keep the UK in the union – would grow.
Diplomats among the EU member states are currently debating how detailed the so-called joint political declaration on the future relationship needs to be for 29 March.
The declaration on the future trade deal will be a separate document to the main withdrawal treaty, and will not be legally binding, allowing the language to be vague if both sides of the negotiations decide to defer major decisions to avoid a public row.
Some voices, including key figures in the European commission, believe a vague and aspirational declaration, which does not rule out the UK’s demands for the future, despite Brussels’ complete opposition to many of them, would be the safest way to avoid a no-deal scenario.
Under such a strategy, it would be during the 21-month transition period – after the UK has formally agreed in the withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, protect EU citizens’ rights and pay a £39bn divorce bill – that Brussels would formally reject the Chequers proposals.
The People’s Vote campaign – which was boosted in August by a record £1m donation from the multimillionaire Julian Dunkerton, who co-founded the Superdry fashion label – is focusing on polling in order to convince key decision-makers that the UK’s withdrawal is not certain.
A Die Welt article, published on Friday under the headline “The British do not expect much from Brexit”, said of the new poll provided to the German newspaper that 46% of Britons today would vote for remaining in the EU as opposed to 41% against. “In the meantime, a narrow but constant majority is turning against Brexit,” the paper reported.
Theresa May has previously suggested that it is only with a guarantee of the free flow of goods between the UK and the rest of Europe that the health of the British economy can be maintained.
She has described the free trade deal that the EU would probably offer when negotiations start in earnest during the transition period as unacceptable.
According to the YouGov poll, the threat of a blind Brexit unites both leave and remain voters. It suggests that 65% of leave voters oppose it, rising to 86% of remain voters who think it is important to know the terms and consequences of Brexit before a final decision to leave the EU is made.
Opposition to blind Brexit is said to be strongest among those over 50, with 76% of 50-64-year-olds and 75% of over-65s in opposition.
The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, a leading supporter of People’s Vote, said: “People in Britain do not want to be misled by politicians at home or by the European commission, but a blind Brexit would conceal from the British people the real consequences of leaving until Britain has left the EU – and from where there will be no going back.
“In 2016, the leave campaign in the referendum pretended Brexit would control immigration, improve free trade, and mean more money for the NHS – but we now know Brexit can’t be all those things as it will be a terrible mess. What this poll shows is that the people of the UK are too smart to let the same people get away with the same lies.
“The threat of a ‘blind Brexit’ or a disastrous ‘no deal Brexit’ is rising, and evidence is piling up that whether it’s a no deal, a Chequers deal or a blind Brexit it would be a disaster for our young people, for our vital public services and for our country.
“Whether people backed leave or remain, nobody voted for this mess. That is why the momentum behind the demand for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal is building.”