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2019-08-17 02:26:40

The public decisively rejects Boris Johnson’s threat to crash the UK out of the EU without a deal, undermining his claim to have a mandate for the dramatic step, an exclusive poll for The Independent shows.

Only 34 per cent of voters want the prime minister to carry out a no-deal Brexit on 31 October if necessary – while 49 per cent urge him to either delay, cancel Brexit altogether, or stage a fresh referendum.

The survey, carried out by BMG Research, also reveals the public is overwhelmingly gloomy about Mr Johnson’s chances of negotiating a fresh deal, with only 19 per cent believing he will.

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Voters also favour MPs being given a final vote on the Brexit outcome – rather being shut out of the process, as the government intends – by 42 per cent to 39 per cent.

Guto Bebb, a Conservative MP fighting a crash-out departure, seized on the findings, saying: “There is no mandate and never has been a mandate for a no-deal Brexit.

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“Boris Johnson in 2016 promised a better deal than our current one with the EU. Why can’t he deliver that promise rather than the disaster of a no-mandate no deal?”

And Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “A no-deal Brexit must be taken off the table. Not only, as the poll shows, is there no public support for it, it is also incredibly irresponsible for any government to pursue something that will result in job losses, damage to our economy and hit our public services.”

leftCreated with Sketch. rightCreated with Sketch.

The comment follows official warnings that no deal will trigger a recession and fears of a mass slaughter of sheep and cattle, as ministers make fresh plans to bring in emergency food and medicines.

The prime minister has justified his warning of a “do or die” Brexit on Halloween, even without an agreement, by claiming the 2016 referendum gives him the authority.

Dominic Cummings, his controversial chief aide, attacked MPs manoeuvring to block a no deal – even by replacing Mr Johnson with an “emergency government” – by insisting it was “simple”.

“The prime minister believes that politicians don’t get to choose which votes they respect, that’s the critical issue,” Mr Cummings said.

However, an independent fact check found no reference to voters being told, three years ago, that a vote for Leave was a vote to crash out of the EU with no agreement, if necessary.

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Last week, Mr Johnson admitted that the risks of a no-deal Brexit were on the rise, despite dismissing it as a “million to one” chance during the Tory leadership campaign.

He also failed to rule out calling a general election – but would delay it until after 31 October, in order to thwart parliament’s attempts to block it by shutting it down.

Mr Johnson acknowledged there was no hint of the EU folding on its refusal to renegotiate the divorce deal, blaming “a terrible collaboration” with anti-Brexit MPs.

“The awful thing is that, the longer that goes on, the more likely it is of course that we will be forced to leave with a no-deal Brexit,” he told an audience on Facebook.

The prime minister is expected to meet the leaders of Germany and France ahead of next weekend’s European Council, in an attempt to achieve a breakthrough.

But he admitted: “Our European friends are not moving in their willingness to compromise. They’re sticking to every letter, every comma of the withdrawal agreement – including the [Irish] backstop.”

The Independent poll, of 1,515 adults, carried out in the days up to 12 August, suggests the public is increasingly desperate to settle the Brexit controversy one way or the other, rather than prolong the crisis.

Just 7 per cent of voters want any extension to the Article 50 process to be used for fresh negotiations, reflecting the belief that no different deal is likely.

Some 20 per cent want a Final Say referendum, with 22 per cent favouring revoking Article 50 to scrap Brexit and just 6 per cent still backing Theresa May’s doomed deal.

Worryingly for the Conservatives’ long-term prospects, if there is a no deal, backing plummets further to just 20 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds – and only 15 per cent of 18- of 24-year-olds.

Even among over-65s, the bedrock of support for Brexit, only a minority (48 per cent) favours a Halloween crash-out, if no fresh deal has been struck. 

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