Poll finds more than 80,000 Labour activists could QUIT the party over Corbyn’s refusal to back a second Brexit referendum
- Jeremy Corbyn has been resisting pressure to back a second Brexit referendum
- Poll finds three quarters of Labour members support another national ballot
- Over 80,000 are considering quitting the party over the row, study suggests
Pressure is mounting on Jeremy Corbyn to back a second Brexit referendum after polling showed huge support among Labour members – and many ready to quit if he ignores them.
The Labour leader has been desperately resisting calls from within his own ranks to endorse another national vote, keeping the option open while insisting he prefers an election.
But a study of more than 1,000 Labour members found that 72 per cent want Mr Corbyn to throw his weight behind the policy.
There was also backing for a second referendum among wider Labour supporters, including 61 per cent of those who voted for the party at the 2017 election.
The research underlined the scale of the challenge Jeremy Corbyn faces from Labour members, with thousands considering quitting, nearly a quarter believing he is a Brexiteer, and nearly three quarters wanting a new referendum
The work suggests that tens of thousands of Labour members could be prepared to quit the party over the leadership’s approach to leaving the EU.
Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of Labour members put Mr Corbyn’s failure to back a second referendum down to a belief that he supports Brexit.
Professor Tim Bale, of Queen Mary University London, said: ‘Our survey of Labour’s grassroots clearly shows that Corbyn’s apparent willingness to see the UK leave the EU – a stance he has recently reiterated – is seriously at odds with what the overwhelming majority of Labour’s members want, and it doesn’t reflect the views of most Labour voters either.’
The work was carried out by YouGov for the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Party Members Project.
Some 29 per cent of Labour’s rank-and-file members said they oppose the stance that the party has taken on Brexit – and 56 per cent of those told researchers it has caused them to consider quitting.
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That proportion would be equivalent to around 88,000 members, according to the project’s analysis.
If there is another referendum – and a three-way question – some 88 per cent of Labour members said they would back Remain, 3 per cent said they would leave with Theresa May’s deal and 5 per cent would support leaving with no deal.
If the choice was between the Prime Minister’s deal and leaving the EU without an agreement, some 27 per cent of Labour members said they would boycott the vote altogether, although 46 per cent said they would take Mrs May’s deal.
Some 89 per cent of Labour members – compared with 65 per cent of current Labour voters and only 45 per cent of all voters – are convinced that leaving the EU without a deal would cause economic damage in the medium to long-term.
While just 35 per cent of the electorate as a whole believe that warnings of short-term disruption with potential problems for food and medicine supplies in a no-deal Brexit are realistic, that figure rises to 82 per cent of Labour members and 58 per cent of Labour voters.
Prof Bale said: ‘Our survey suggests Labour’s membership is overwhelmingly in favour of the UK remaining in the EU and badly wants a referendum to achieve that end.
Theresa May (pictured delivering her New Year message) has been battling to get her Brexit deal through Parliament
‘It also suggests that Labour voters, while not as keen as the party’s members on either count, are in the same camp.
‘Labour’s grassroots clearly hate Brexit and, although many of them still love Corbyn, he might not be able to rely for much longer on their support for him trumping their opposition to leaving the EU.
‘As a result, our research is bound to increase the pressure on Labour’s leader to get off the fence.’
Labour MP Phil Wilson said: ‘An overwhelming majority of Labour’s voters, as well as its members, want the public to have the final say on Brexit and to stay in the European Union.
‘But the leadership has too often hidden behind myths that Labour is almost evenly divided on this issue when the clear evidence from this and other polls shows that it is the leadership which is increasingly out of step with its supporters.’
The Sedgefield MP added: ‘Labour’s leadership now has a huge opportunity to be at the front of a popular campaign against the Government’s Brexit deal and make sure the public are given the right to have the final say in the form of a People’s Vote.
‘I urge Jeremy to seize this chance to change the course of history, before it’s too late.’
YouGov surveyed 1,034 Labour Party members between December 17 and 21 2018. The pollster also surveyed a representative sample of 1,675 British adults on December 18-19.
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