When we last asked Party members for their views on Theresa May’s deal, it was backed as it stood by 19 per cent of replies. Roughly 40 per cent said that they would support it if big changes were made to the backstop – such as a time limit or a unilateral right to leave.
That was on March 6, before the deal was revised last weekend. This presented changes to the backstop – if one believes that the joint instrument and unilateral declaration count in this regard – but these certainly aren’t large in the sense that our respondents wanted.
None the less, backing for the deal as it now stands has more than doubled from that 19 per cent to 40 per cent. So what is going on?
As ever, your reading is as valid as ours. But for what it’s worth our take is that the jump has less to do with any satisfaction over the revisions than fear of No Brexit.
Reporting on the “switchers” who supported the revised deal on Tuesday evening, Mark Wallace highlighted Philip Davies – “such a long-standing Brexiteer that back in 2005 he became the only MP in the Commons to publicly support the UK leaving the EU”.
Mark’s point was that the switchers couldn’t reasonably be written off by fellow supporters of Brexit as softies. Most voted as they did for the reason we give above: fear that if May’s revised deal doesn’t now go through there will be no Brexit at all.
Most of the responses above came in before the Commons voted yesterday to take No Deal off the table permanently. One wonders if there would be an even larger shift if we re-ran the survey this morning.
None the less, it must be stressed that 40 per cent isn’t a majority. A full 56 per cent of respondents are opposed to the revised deal. They seem to be with such ERG members as Mark Francois: against the deal at any cost – viewing it as Brexit in name only.
Essentially, there are two main views among those who aren’t enthusiastic about the deal as it stands. One, fight it to the end – let others take the responsibility for No Brexit if that happens. Two, reluctantly yield, because a flawed Brexit is better than none.
Some will argue that what Party members think is irrelevant to what happens at Westminster. This is wrong. Their moods and swings can influence Conservative MPs – each of whom must have a relationship with his or her activists.
The Prime Minister made it clear in the Commons after her defeats yesterday evening that she now plans a third Meaningful Vote. The shift in this survey suggests that she will get a better result next week than the one she got on Tuesday.