Deal, no deal or delay: what the public thinks

Anthony WellsHead of European Political and Social Research
March 12, 2019, 8:17 AM GMT+0

Anthony Wells sees where the public stands on the possible outcomes of Theresa May's forthcoming Brexit votes

Theresa May's Brexit deal returns to the Commons today. If MPs reject it once again, as most expect, then the Government has promised to bring forward debates on whether Britain should leave the EU without a vote and, if not, whether Britain should seek to extend Article 50 and delay Brexit.

Ahead of the results we explore what we know about public opinion on the three options MPs face this week: deal, no deal or delay.


Theresa May's Brexit deal has been consistently unpopular in our polling. At the time it was first agreed back in November, only 19% of people approved of it and the passage of time has had no significant impact. Even the threat of a looming No Deal has not led to a pragmatic increase in support. Our most recent figures last week still found only 22% support the deal, while 46% of people are opposed.

Just over a quarter (26%) think that MPs should vote to accept the deal, while 41% think they should reject it, and 32% said they don't know what outcome is best. Some 40% of people think the deal would be bad for the country, compared to just 15% who feel the opposite.

By the very narrowest of margins (35% to 34%) it’s seen as respecting the result of the referendum - though not by the people who actually voted for it. Among Leave voters, 47% think that the deal doesn't respect the result, compared to 32% who feel it does.

The proposed deal ultimately doesn’t keep either side happy. Neither Remainers nor Leavers support it, and for different reasons. Back in January we asked people to explain in their own words why they disliked the deal. Remainers didn't support it because they were opposed to Brexit anyway and Leavers were opposed to it because they didn't think it represented real Brexit.

No Deal

Despite the claims of some newspapers there is no sign of increased support for a No Deal Brexit. The majority of the public continue to think that No Deal would be a bad outcome for the country, by 52% to 20%. This is little changed from results of the same questions posed at the beginning of the year.

While a No Deal Brexit is regarded as a bad outcome, people do not necessarily believe it would be a disaster. While a majority (51%) say they would be worried by No Deal, only 35% of people believe warnings of severe short term disruption such as food or medicine shortages. Some 45% of people think these are exaggerated or invented.

Neither are people necessarily very clear about what No Deal would mean, although though very few get it completely wrong. The claim that a significant proportion of people think No Deal means that we would stay in the EU simply isn't true; when we asked in January we found only 1% of people believed this, while 26% of people thought leaving with no deal would involve some sort of transition deal, 56% thought it meant leaving without any sort of deal or arrangement.


Give the same choice that MPs are likely to face this week 34% of people would prefer Britain to leave without a deal on the 29th March, and 49% of people would prefer Brexit to be delayed until after the 29th March. The division is overwhelmingly along Leave/Remain lines; by 69% to 19% Leave voters prefer to go without a deal, by 80% to 9% Remain voters would prefer a delay.

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