A new poll has found that the British public would much prefer to remain in the EU than to accept the kind of no-deal Brexit being pushed by Conservative Brexiteers.
The YouGov poll for the Times found that in a three-way transferable vote — where the public would vote on three outcomes in order of preference — 50% would put their first preference towards remaining, 17% towards leaving with a deal, and 33% towards leaving with no-deal.
That would eliminate the least popular option — leave with a deal — in the first round of counting. After the second preferences of "leave with deal" voters were allocated, the final result handed "remain" a 55% share and "leave with no deal" 45%.
The idea of a three-way referendum, proposed this week by former Cabinet minister Justine Greening, is itself unpopular with voters, with only 36% in favour of the proposal and 47% opposed to the idea.
However, support for a straightforward second referendum has climbed to 40% — its highest figure recorded in a YouGov poll — but still behind the 42% who oppose the idea.
The poll also found an increase in public uncertainty in the past few days on the Brexit issue. Asked if there should be a second referendum, 40% said yes, up three points on last week, and the highest figure recorded so far in a YouGov poll. In all, 42% said no, an increase of one point.
The respondents were also asked whether, in hindsight, they thought that the UK was right to vote to leave the European Union, with 42% answering yes and 47% saying no.
The findings come as the official Brexit campaign was fined and referred to the police for breaching electoral law.
Asked about the prospect of a second referendum, Theresa May's spokesperson said this week: "There is not going to be a second referendum under any circumstances."
However, the prime minister could be forced into adopting one if she fails to secure agreement from parliament for her Brexit deal.
The poll also indicated that Labour (41%) had opened up a 5-point lead over the Conservatives (36%) following the badly received so-called Chequers agreement and the ongoing series of resignations from May's government.
While Theresa May survived a key vote on the customs union last night which could have ended her premiership, her future still remains in doubt, with around 40 letters from Tory MPs understood to have been submitted to party authorities. A vote of no confidence would be instigated if the number were to rise to 48.
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