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Nearly three quarters of MPs think Theresa May has done a poor job of negotiating Brexit

The latest survey shows that the House of Commons has become even more polarised on Brexit. Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary, believes this will make the Prime Minister’s job even more difficult.

9 January 2019


The fourth annual survey of MPs’ attitudes to Brexit from The UK in a Changing Europe and the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London has shown that 70 per cent of MPs think Theresa May has done a poor job of negotiating Brexit.

The survey also found more than half (55 per cent) of Conservative MPs think there are alternative solutions to the proposed ‘backstop’ and that difficulties on the Irish border question have been exaggerated.

According to the poll more Conservative MPs think May has done a bad job (47 per cent) than good (34 per cent) when it comes to Brexit negotiations as a whole.

Hardening of views

The survey highlights the difficulties of delivering Brexit with disagreements concerning what does and does not respect the 2016 referendum result.

Opposition to membership of the single market has increased significantly in the last 12 months. When asked last year, 42 per cent of MPs believed membership of the single market was incompatible with leaving the EU, whilst 56 per cent disagreed.

The figures for 2018 show a different picture. 58 per cent now think membership of the single market does not fully honour the referendum result with 39 per cent disagreeing. There are also large differences between the parties. 36 per cent of Labour MPs said membership of the single market does not represent a Brexit that honours the referendum versus 86 per cent of Conservative MPs.  

The survey results come after Queen Mary’s latest polling data of political party members showed that most members of the Conservative Party would choose no deal over Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

Deal or no deal

Conservative MPs remain bullish about the prospects for trade with countries outside the EU after Brexit. 70 per cent are optimistic that the UK will be able to quickly sign deals with major powers such as China and the US.

Some 85 per cent of Tory MPs think these trade deals will at the very least compensate for loss of EU trade, and 58 per cent think new trade deals will more than compensate for any lost EU trade.

Pro-Leave MPs were also highly sceptical about the likelihood of disruption in the event of no deal, except in two areas: the value of sterling and disruption at ports. 44 per cent of Leave-voting MPs see a drop in the value of sterling as likely while 32 per cent see disruption at ports as likely.

50 per cent of MPs think medical shortages and a substantial decline in house prices are likely, however, Leave-voting MPs were near-unanimous in their scepticism of that outcome.

Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London said: “None of this will make easy reading for the Prime Minister. The attitudes of Leave-voting Tories appear to be hardening rather than softening and they seem amazingly unfazed by the difficulties presented by both the Irish border issue and a No-Deal Brexit.”

Professor Anand Menon, director The UK in a Changing Europe, said: “The House of Commons is clearly very divided. It is hard to see, given the numbers, how the Prime Minister can get her deal through. That being said, it is hard to see how any outcome can command a majority.” 

More information

The survey of MPs’ attitudes to Brexit was conducted by Ipsos MORI in November and December 2018. Interviews were conducted with 98 MPs, face-to-face, and findings are weighted to reflect the composition of the House of Commons.