Seventy per cent of MPs think Theresa May has done a poor job of negotiating Brexit – and more Conservative MPs think she has done a bad (47%) than a good job (34%), a new survey of MPs has found.
This is the fourth annual survey of MPs’ attitudes to Brexit from The UK in a Changing Europe and the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London. This year’s survey was conducted by Ipsos MORI in November and December 2018 and shows the House of Commons has become even more polarised in the last 12 months.
More than half (55%) of Conservative MPs think there are alternative solutions to the proposed ‘backstop’ and that difficulties on the Irish border question have been exaggerated.
Hardening views on what does and does not respect the referendum result could also make any attempt to put together a majority for a softer, ‘Norway-style’ Brexit very difficult indeed.
Opposition to membership of the single market has increased significantly in the last 12 months. When asked last year, 42% of MPs believed membership of the single market was incompatible with leaving the EU, and 56% disagreed.
These figures have now reversed: 58% now think a position similar to EEA membership would mean ‘we haven’t truly left the European Union and honoured the referendum result’, and 39% disagree.
This is principally due to a significant movement away from single market membership among Labour MPs. In our previous poll, 8% said single market membership would not represent a Brexit that honoured the referendum. The figure today is 36%. 86% of Conservative MPs believe that membership of the single market is not compatible with the referendum result.
Fifty per cent of MPs, and 80% of Conservative MPs, feel customs union membership would not honour the referendum result. In other words, this option would probably see Mrs May lose more Conservative votes than she gained Labour ones.
Conservative MPs remain bullish about the prospects for trade with countries outside the EU after Brexit. 70% are optimistic that the UK will be able to quickly sign deals with major powers such as China and the US. Some 85% of Tory MPs think these trade deals will at the very least compensate for loss of EU trade, and 58% think new trade deals will more than compensate for any lost EU trade. Eight-three per cent of Conservative MPs expect the economy to improve over the next 10 years.
Leave MPs were highly sceptical about the likelihood of disruption in the event of no deal, except in two areas: 44% of Leave-voting MPs see a drop in the value of sterling as likely (54% unlikely), while 32% see disruption at ports as likely. Fifty per cent of MPs think medical shortages and a substantial decline in house prices are likely, however, Leave-voting MPs were near-unanimous in their scepticism of that outcome.
Professor Anand Menon, director The UK in a Changing Europe, said: “The House of Commons is clearly very divided. It is hard to see, given the numbers, how the Prime Minister can get her deal through. That being said, it is hard to see how any outcome can command a majority.”
Professor Tim Bale said: “None of this will make easy reading for the PM: the attitudes of Leave-voting Tories appear to be hardening rather than softening and they seem amazingly unfazed by the difficulties presented by both the Irish border issue and a No-Deal Brexit.”
Interviews were conducted with 98 MPs, face-to-face, and findings are weighted to reflect the composition of the House of Commons.
The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative.