The number of British voters who want to leave the European Union (EU) is surging. According to the latest polling, the ‘Out’ campaign has drawn away to open a six-point lead in the wake of the Paris massacre, Cologne sex attacks and the continuing migration crisis that has flooded Europe with over a million illegal immigrants in the past 12 months.
In a worrying sign for Prime Minister David Cameron’s hopes to head off any possible ‘Brexit’, the figures reveal that if London Mayor Boris Johnson were to join an exit call, as its supporters still hope, the gap would widen to eight points.
A Mail on Sunday poll released today is the first since David Cameron and EU chiefs last week effectively fired the starting gun for a referendum – possibly as soon as June.
The 53-47 support for severing ties with Brussels is almost a direct reversal of a survey from the same pollsters last May, which showed a 54-46 split in favour of staying in.
The poll indicates Mr Cameron needs all the help he can get if he is to return to that position, as the crises in Europe coincide with a steady rise in support for leaving the EU. Mr Cameron has argued that retaining our links with the EU will make it easier to tackle these issues: voters are not convinced.
Between 34 and 47 per cent say the Paris massacre, New Year sex attacks in Cologne, Syrian exodus and growth of the Calais migrant camp have made them more likely to vote to leave the EU. An average of nearly 10 per cent say these events make them more likely to vote ‘In’.
One point Mr Cameron will draw comfort from is that the survey supports claims that the fear of the unknown, concerning the consequences of Britain having to “go it alone” outside the EU, may drive an 11th hour loss of nerve among some who would like to vote Leave. A total of 43 per cent say ‘Out’ supporters could change their mind come referendum day; only 28 per cent say “Remain” supporters will have a similar loss of nerve.
Further evidence of the emotional factor is clear as the number who agree “my heart says Leave but my head says Remain” is twice as large as those who say the opposite. Mr Cameron’s claim that he will stay if he loses the referendum is also endorsed by voters by a margin of 42 per cent to 33. Even one in five Labour supporters say he should not walk away.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, meanwhile has all but ruled himself out of backing the ‘Leave’ campaign. But if he did change his mind, according to the poll, he could add two points to the gap in favour of severing ties with Brussels.
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