Only a tiny fraction of voters want the UK to have a “distant” relationship with the EU after Brexit, a new poll has found, adding fresh pressure on Theresa May to secure an agreement with Brussels.
In contrast, 87 per cent want the prime minister to negotiate an agreement that would ensure a future relationship with the EU that is either “close and warm” or “practical and neutral”.
The poll highlights public opposition to a no-deal outcome, which would see Britain crash out of the bloc and revert to World Trade Organisation rules.
It comes with just weeks left for the government to secure an agreement with Brussels.
Ms May is facing the seemingly impossible task of finding a deal that will be accepted by both the EU and her own backbenchers.
Earlier this week, the DUP made clear it would vote against the deal – and possible this month’s Budget – if the prime minister agrees to any new checks on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Eurosceptic Tory rebels claim to have at least 40 MPs ready to vote against Ms May’s plans, while Labour is also widely expected to oppose the deal.
The prime minister briefed senior cabinet ministers on Thursday night on a new amended customs backstop proposal that she hopes could break the deadlock in negotiations.
The polling was published as part of the Fabian Society’s new report, titled Beyond Brexit.
It found that 51 per cent of voters want a future relationship with the EU that is “practical and neutral”, while 36 per cent want one that is “close and warm”. Only 4 per cent want a “cold and distant” relationship.
The poll also showed that the public thinks the top priority in Brexit negotiations should be controlling immigration and ending Brussels’ sovereignty over UK law. A majority of voters continue to believe that leaving the EU will have what they consider to be a positive outcome in both of these areas.
However, more voters also want to keep open the option of the UK re-joining the bloc at a later date. 45 per cent said they wanted this to remain a possibility, compared to 41 per cent who did not.
Andrew Harrop, general secretary of the Fabian Society said: “Politicians who wish Britain was staying in the EU still need to plan for our future outside it. This report sets the technicalities of the negotiations to one side and asks what sort of country we want to be and how we should work with the EU.
“Only 4 per cent of British adults want a cold, distant relationship with Europe so Labour politicians need to prove there is an alternative to the sour divorce of the Brexiters.”
The report includes contributions from a number of Labour MPs, including Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary.
He warned that people are preoccupied with the technicalities of Brexit negotiations and have not focused enough on the underlying issues that led to the vote to leave the EU.
He said: “Labour is clear that we need a final Brexit deal that protects jobs, the economy and delivers a close future relationship with the EU.
“However, the details of the final deal are just one side of the Brexit process. The country will not forgive us if we do not also address the inequalities and injustices that were exposed by the referendum campaign.
“For too long the urgent need to transform our economy and our politics has been drowned out by a narrow focus on the technicalities of the negotiations. We need a good Brexit deal, but we also need a radical and transformative Labour government.”
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.