For the first time this year, more people have said they want to leave the European Union (EU) than remain a member, a poll has revealed. However, when asked how they would vote should the Prime Minister say he has protected British interests through negotiations and recommend Britain stay in, the result reverses, showing a large majority in favour of remaining within the EU.
According to polling by YouGov for The Times, 40 per cent of Brits are in favour of pulling out of the EU, against 38 per cent who want to stay in. The last time the “leave” campaign was out in front was last November.
Over the summer, polling showed a decisive majority across the country backed staying in the EU, with Scotland, the North, and voters in London in particular wanting to remain. But as the migrant crisis has hit headlines, and with scenes of chaos becoming an almost daily occurrence across European borders, that lead has melted away.
However, victory is by no means assured for the Brexit camp (those who favour a British exit). Prime Minister David Cameron has sent a team to Brussels to negotiate on a change of terms with the bloc, the results of which he intends to put to the British people as the basis for an alternative to an exit. The polling shows strong support for this idea.
Peter Kellner, the president of YouGov said: “For the first time this year, a plurality favours Brexit. However, we also find a large majority for staying in if Mr Cameron says he has protected Britain’s interests in his negotiations with Brussels and recommends a vote to stay.
“This is because one in four Conservative voters and one in five party members change sides when asked how they would respond to such a lead from the prime minister.”
The comprehensive poll questioned 11,000 voters, and a further 5,000 members of each of Britain’s six major parties.
Quizzing Tory members specifically on whether their leader should campaign during the referendum, 30 percent said they thought Cameron should actively campaign to stay in, while 22 percent said he should campaign for a British exit.
However, by far the biggest number, 38 per cent, said he should not take sides at all.
And a whopping 72 per cent said Cameron’s ministers should be able to choose which side to campaign for, against just 21 per cent who think they should rally behind Cameron and stick to the government line.
Kellner said: “Mr Cameron, then, has a triple challenge: first to secure the kind of deal he wants from Brussels; second to win over an increasingly sceptical public; and, third, to persuade his own ministers, MPs and party activists that he is right to campaign at all for staying in the EU.”
In-depth polling on the referendum undertaken by YouGov over the summer shows that, although the campaign to remain in has the benefit of backing the status quo, which always gives an advantage during referenda, those who want to leave have the more persuasive arguments.
The most convincing arguments for the leave campaign are that leaving “would allow Britain to spend money that currently goes on the EU to better public services”, which a net 35 percent overall found convincing, and that leaving “would allow Britain to radically reduce immigration into the country,” supported by a net 33 percent.
The statement “remaining in means having no way of limiting or cutting immigration from the EU” gained the net support of 27 percent.
For the remain in campaign, the most convincing argument was that leaving “would mean businesses still must comply with EU laws but we would have no say in setting them”, which gained the net support of 27 percent of people.
“Being in the EU gives Britain access to a huge market for our exports, bringing jobs and prosperity” was the second most persuasive, gaining the net support of 25 percent of people.