Public would prefer to cancel Brexit or hold second referendum than Halloween no-deal, poll shows

Lizzy Buchan

The public would rather scrap Brexit or hold a second referendum than face a chaotic no-deal at Halloween if the new prime minister cannot strike a fresh agreement, a poll has found.

Voters are sceptical that Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt can negotiate a better Brexit deal in only three months, amid the same political turmoil that toppled Theresa May.

If a new agreement proves impossible, something many in Westminster and Brussels expect, an exclusive survey found 43 per cent of voters would opt for revoking the decision to leave the EU over a disorderly Brexit, which was backed by 38 per cent.

The BMG poll for The Independent also found 41 per cent would support a Final Say referendum to resolve the impasse, a scenario that commands greater Commons support than cancelling Brexit altogether.

Alarm over the looming prospect of a no-deal Brexit has risen since Ms May’s resignation, as her likely successor, Mr Johnson, has pledged to leave the EU on 31 October, with or without an agreement.

The Brexiteer has stormed ahead in the Tory leadership contest with a pledge to “do or die” over Brexit, leaving his rival, Mr Hunt, scrambling to make up ground before the 22 July voting deadline.

It comes as pro-EU MPs were poised for a fresh Commons bid to prevent a new prime minister forcing through a no-deal Brexit in October.

Tory Brexit rebel Dominic Grieve is planning to amend the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) bill on Monday, to force the Commons to sit in October – making it impossible to suspend parliament or send MPs home before exit day.

The plan is likely to attract the support of opposition MPs, with questions over whether senior Tories who vehemently oppose no deal, such as chancellor Philip Hammond and David Gauke, the justice secretary, could also support it.

Mr Hammond has put himself at the head of an informal group of 30 Tory MPs who are understood to be discussing parliamentary plots to stop a no-deal Brexit.

Several other attempts are due to be made to amend the Northern Ireland bill, including efforts to change the law in the region on abortion and same-sex marriage.

The survey of 1,532 people found 41 per cent of the public thought there was not enough time to get a new Brexit deal by Halloween, with 39 per cent saying it could still be done.

When asked about each option individually if a deal cannot be brokered, revoking Article 50 emerged as the favoured option (43 per cent), followed by a second referendum (41 per cent) and leaving without a deal (38 per cent).

Ms May’s deal commanded the least support on (21 per cent), while 35 per cent would back an extension to try to find a new deal.

It comes as Tory members started voting by postal ballot but the leadership contest has already been marred by a row over the news that some activists were issued with more than one ballot paper.

Former party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin, who is running Mr Hunt’s bid, said the issue has “to be looked at” but Tory members should follow the rules and vote just once.

The party said there were “clear instructions” that anyone found to have voted more than once would be expelled.

The foreign secretary urged activists to “try before you buy” by waiting for the TV debates next week, as he scrambles to make up ground.

But allies of Mr Johnson have been urging members to vote immediately, using a social media campaign with the slogan, “To get Boris, vote Boris”.

Both men faced questions from activists at hustings in Nottingham and Cardiff on Saturday, where Mr Johnson sought to defend his “arguably racist” comments about Muslim women.

Mr Hunt set his sights on winning over young voters, while his rival talked tough on crime with calls for violent and sexual offenders to remain in prison for longer.

Source note: BMG Research interviewed a representative sample of 1,532 GB adults online between 2 and 5 July. Data are weighted. BMG is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.