A UK paper has found that 50 percent of Brits would support another vote on the final terms of a Brexit deal. The poll comes ahead of Monday’s crunch meeting between UK PM Theresa May and the EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker.
With British Prime Minister Theresa May set to hold make-or break talks with European officials on Monday over the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, a weekend poll has found that half of British voters would support another vote on the final terms of a Brexit deal.
The poll, published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, also found that a majority of citizens think Britain is paying too much money to the EU as part of its so-called “divorce bill.” Thirty-four percent of those surveyed said they did not want another referendum, while 16 percent said they didn’t know.
The newspaper said its was the first opinion survey published following media reports last week that Britain was prepared to pay some €50 billion ($59 billion) to the EU to help move negotiations on to striking a future deal.
More than 1,000 people were surveyed as part of the poll on Thursday and Friday, just after unconfirmed reports of a deal on the divorce bill began to surface in the British press.
When asked why the UK was paying so much, the most popular response was because “the EU wants to punish us.”
Mike Smithson, an election analyst and former Liberal Democrat lawmaker, said it was “the first time any pollster has recorded backing” for a second Brexit referendum.”
Blair: Brexit reversible
Sunday’s poll coincided with former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s announcement that he was actively working to reverse Brexit, on the grounds that the Leave campaign’s promise of extra spending going towards the National Health Service would not be honored.
“A lot of people will have voted for Brexit on the basis that if you get out of Europe, all this money is going to come back and we can spend it on the health service. And that was a very specific promise made by the Brexiteers,” the former Prime Minister said, referring to the promise of a 350 million pound (€397 million, $470.3 million) boost for the NHS, plastered all over a red bus.
Blair continued: “It is now very clear I think: one, that there is no extra money for the health service through Brexit and, secondly, we’re actually going to be paying less money to the health service, not more money, because growth is down and because we’ve also got this huge bill for the European Union. So when the facts change, I think people are entitled to change their mind.”
Blair joins a host of high profile Brexit opponents — including French President Emmanuel Macronand billionaire investor George Soros — to suggest that Britain should be allowed to change its mind and avoid what they see as a massive blow to the British economy.
Blair said he is determined to help reverse the decision to leave the EU.
“My belief is that, in the end, when the country sees the choice of this new relationship, it will realize that it’s either going to be something that does profound damage to the country, or alternatively, having left the European Union, left the single market, we will try and by some means recreate the benefit of that in some new relationship, in which case I think many people will think, ‘What’s the point?'”
Irish border issue
One of the main sticking points that remain in the Brexit negotiations is the Irish border issue.
May has pledged that Britain will leave the European customs union and single market, while allowing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic to remain open. However, there are major concerns ringing in Dublin, Brussels and London that these two promises aren’t compatible.
Although much the discourse behind Britain’s decision to quit the EU concerned taking back control of immigration and the border, May is under intense pressure to ensure that the Irish border remains open, with the Irish government indicating that it will turn down any proposal that doesn’t guarantee otherwise.
On Monday, Ireland’s European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee said arrangements between her government and Britain had made progress, but more work needed to be done.
The Irish issue sits alongside the divorce bill and future rights of EU citizens living in the UK as the main issues the EU has demanded “significant progress” on before negotiations move on to phase two and discussion over a post-Brexit trade deal. Failure to reach an agreement would see the risk of Britain crashing out without a deal become increasingly real.