More than half of grassroots Conservative members want Theresa May’s Brexit deal to be ditched in favour of no deal, a survey has found. About 57% of the rank and file are convinced that leaving the EU without a deal is better than their own leader’s Brexit plan, according to a poll funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Less than a quarter (23%) would vote for Theresa May’s deal in a three-way referendum between the deal, no deal and remaining in the EU. The latest findings are bad news for Mrs May’s hopes of winning support for her deal, said research leader Professor Tim Bale.
He said: “If Theresa May is hoping that her MPs will return to Westminster having been persuaded by their constituency associations to back her Brexit deal, she’s going to be disappointed. “It appears that those members are in no mood for compromise.
“Moreover, the Tory rank and file, it seems, are convinced that no deal is better than May’s deal.”
Prof Bale added: “Tory members’ dislike for the PM’s deal really comes out when we asked about a referendum in which the choice came down to her deal or no deal.
“Only 29% of Tory members would vote for Mrs May’s deal, compared to 64% who would vote to leave without a deal.
“But that’s as nothing to Conservative Party members faced with a referendum offering just two choices – remain or no deal. Some 76% of Conservative Party members would plump for no deal.”
He suggested there were two specific issues behind the opposition to Mrs May’s deal, the first being the Irish backstop.
“Tory members have become convinced that the Irish backstop is a bad idea,” he said, citing that 40% think it is a reason in itself to reject a deal, and 21% think it is irrelevant because Mrs May’s deal “is a bad one anyway”.
The second issue is that 76% of members believed warnings that a no-deal Brexit would cause serious disruption are “exaggerated or invented”. He said: “Tory members – like Tory voters – are utterly unconvinced, despite their own Government’s best recent efforts – that a no-deal Brexit would cause serious disruption.