Theresa May could be more powerful than she appears.
The U.K. prime minister is politically under siege at home and abroad, but she continues to carry significant weight with large tracts of the British public — and particularly among Tory voters.
Most significantly for May, sixty-four percent of Tory voters want MPs to back whatever divorce deal May is able to strike with Brussels, rather than vote it down, according to a poll by the U.S. campaign strategy firm GQR Research shared with POLITICO. GQRR worked for the Labour Party from 1994 to 2015.
Tory voters also overwhelming oppose May being replaced as Tory leader to finish the negotiations.
The poll represents a significant boost for the prime minister ahead of what is expected to be a fractious Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham this week and just as Brexit negotiations are entering the crucial final stages ahead of the U.K.’s scheduled exit in March 2019. May’s Brexit plan, agreed at her country residence Chequers in July, has been widely criticized on all sides of British politics and prompted the resignation of two of her most high-profile Cabinet ministers. European leaders, too, have said the plan won’t work.
“People are essentially saying that even if we can’t get the deal we really want, we ought to leave” — Peter McLeod, vice president at GQRR
According to the survey of 1,477 adults, carried out between September 24 and 26, some 59 percent of Conservative voters would disapprove if Tory MPs vote against whatever deal May manages to secure with Brussels, compared to only 11 percent who would approve. An even greater proportion — 64 percent — said they would actively approve if Conservative MPs supported May’s final deal.
While the poll suggests voters are increasingly worried about Brexit and the prospects for the British economy, and are unhappy with May’s handling of the negotiations, there remains robust support for seeing through Britain’s exit from the bloc, with 45 percent of participants saying the U.K. should leave the EU with whatever deal May can get, compared to 40 percent who disagree.
By 43 percent to 37 percent, participants also said they are prepared to walk away without a deal if the EU will not strike a “reasonable” agreement, rather than trying to avoid a “no-deal” exit at all costs.
In the event May’s deal is rejected by MPs, Tory supporters said they strongly favor — by 58 percent to 31 percent — the prime minister being given more time to renegotiate with Brussels, as opposed to other options that could see May toppled.
However, Tory voters are strongly against a second referendum — by 57 to 33 — another general election — by 70 to 20 — and against a different Conservative leader taking on the negotiations — by 54 to 29.
Cheer for Chequers
The survey results suggest that while the country remains deeply divided over Brexit and broadly unhappy with May’s handling of the negotiations, there remains support for the compromise agreement the prime minister is seeking to agree with her counterparts on the Continent.
This goes some way to support the strategy advocated by many of those close to the prime minister, who say she has more support among the wider public than is assumed.
Despite widespread calls from Tory MPs to “chuck Chequers,” the Brexit package May is seeking to agree with Brussels is narrowly supported by the public. Overall, 43 percent of those surveyed said it is acceptable, versus 36 percent who did not — a seven-point margin of support, including both those who originally backed Remain and Leave in the 2016 EU referendum.
In further encouragement for May, Conservative voters are clearly in favor by 58 percent to 32 percent. Even Labour supporters only narrowly break against the Chequers plan, with 41 percent saying it is unacceptable to 38 percent who disagree.
By contrast, alternative options proposed by May’s critics are less popular. The prospect of staying in the single market and customs union — backed by pro-European Tories and many Labour MPs — is rejected by voters, 44 percent to 36 percent, though majorities of Labour voters and Remain-supporters are in favor.
Leaving without any deal at all is also rejected, though majorities among both Conservatives and Leaver supporters would accept it.
May’s senior advisers say that, contrary to Boris Johnson’s accusation of “supine” leadership in the Daily Telegraph on Friday, her current political difficulties could be used to her advantage in the closing stages of the negotiations.
“It’s about blame,” one senior U.K. government official said. “Who would the public blame [in the event of a breakdown in negotiations]? Nobody could say the PM hadn’t tried. Could they say the same of some others? Will they blame her or someone else? The EU? The MPs who voted it down?”
Peter McLeod, vice president at GQRR, broadly agrees. “People are essentially saying that even if we can’t get the deal we really want, we ought to leave,” he said. “In this context, Chequers seems to get Theresa May to a bare-minimum level of public satisfaction, certainly more than no-deal would get. A huge amount will depend on how it is presented to and understood by the public — if they see Britain as still subject to EU laws and courts, the deal’s in trouble. But crucially for her chances of getting a deal through parliament, Tory MPs voting against it would be courting a lot of dissatisfaction among their own voters.”
The poll finds a level of patriotic support for the government, with voters far more likely to say the EU has behaved unreasonably in negotiations so far than those who think the same of the U.K. government.
In total, 35 percent of voters believe “Britain is being fair and reasonable, but the EU is not.” In contrast just 12 percent say “the EU is being fair and reasonable, but Britain is not.” Just under a third — 30 percent — say both sides are being unreasonable.
Fearful for the future
Despite voters’ desire for Brexit to happen, there has been a substantial shift in sentiment about the country’s prospects over the past year.
In March 2017, a previous survey by GQRR found 50 percent are hopeful about Brexit and 41 percent worried. By September 2017 this had reached 46 percent hopeful and 47 percent worried. Now, 42 percent of participants said they are hopeful, and 53 percent said they are worried.
This pessimism matches voters’ overall sentiment about the economy and their own personal finances. Overall, just 25 percent said they believe the economy is improving, compared to 58 percent who think it is getting worse. Just over a third say their own financial situation is improving, but almost 50 percent say the opposite.
Such sentiment is reflected by unhappiness with how the negotiations have been handled to date. By 47 percent to 23 percent, voters disapprove of the government’s handling of the negotiations.
Even this dire score, however, trumps the public’s perception of Labour’s handling of Brexit, with just 18 percent supportive compared to 46 percent who disapprove.
The public’s feelings toward May are still — just — better than toward Corbyn, with 37 percent saying they feel “warm” to her, compared to just 33 percent for the Labour leader.
Exposing the growing polarization in the country, however, more people now feel warmly toward “the European Union” (39 percent) and “Brexit” (40 percent) than any leading national politician. In fact, more Labour voters feel “cool” to May now (78 percent) than they do to Vladimir Putin (73 percent).
سایت تابناک از انتشار نظرات حاوی توهین و افترا و نوشته شده با حروف لاتین (فینگیلیش) معذور است.