Most Tory mem­bers would back no deal

Grass­roots sup­port for hard Brexit stands at 57pc, while just 23pc ap­prove of May’s deal

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Gor­don Rayner Po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor

THERESA MAY’S hopes of per­suad­ing Tory MPS to back her Brexit deal were dealt a blow as a poll of Con­ser­va­tive Party mem­bers showed more than half would pre­fer to leave the Euro­pean Union with no deal.

Mrs May ap­peared to be con­fi­dent op­po­si­tion to her deal would soften af­ter the Christ­mas break, but new re­search shows the Tory grass­roots would over­whelm­ingly opt for a nodeal Brexit over the agree­ment ne­go­ti­ated by the Prime Min­is­ter.

MPS re­turn to Par­lia­ment on Mon­day and are due to vote on the deal the fol­low­ing week, when they will come un­der pres­sure from their core sup­port­ers to vote it down.

A Yougov poll of Tory mem­bers found that if of­fered a three-way ref­er­en­dum be­tween no deal, Mrs May’s deal and re­main­ing in the EU, 57 per cent of Tory mem­bers would opt for no deal, with 23 per cent choos­ing Mrs May’s deal and 15 per cent choos­ing re­main.

The re­main­ing 5 per cent did not have a pref­er­ence.

The find­ings were pub­lished as a spokesman for Jean-claude Juncker, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent, said he did not ex­pect to have any more meet­ings with Mrs May be­fore the vote be­cause the deal “will not be rene­go­ti­ated”.

Mrs May is con­duct­ing an in­tense round of calls to EU lead­ers to plead for more con­ces­sions af­ter Down­ing Street of­fi­cials pri­vately con­ceded the vote would be lost as things stand.

As well as win­ning over her own MPS, Mrs May must also per­suade the DUP to back her deal, as without them she has no work­ing ma­jor­ity. How­ever, she failed to do so when she in­vited Nigel Dodds, the DUP’S West­min­ster leader, and Sammy Wil­son, its Brexit spokesman, to lunch at Down­ing St yes­ter­day.

Mr Dodds later said the DUP’S stance had not changed, and that un­less Mrs May dropped the North­ern Ire­land back­stop from the Brexit deal, his party would not be sup­port­ing it.

Ac­cord­ing to one re­port yes­ter­day, Cabi­net min­is­ters have sug­gested Mrs May should name the day she in­tends to step down if she wants more MPS to sup­port her.

The Prime Min­is­ter was also ac­cused of try­ing to ex­ert pres­sure on MPS to back her deal by agree­ing that no-deal pub­lic in­for­ma­tion broad­casts should be­gin next week, be­fore the vote.

The ra­dio ad­verts, which will tell the pub­lic what they will need to do in the event of a no-deal Brexit, were de­scribed by crit­ics as a ploy to un­set­tle the pub­lic and make MPS think twice about op­pos­ing the deal.

The Yougov poll of Tory mem­bers, car­ried out for the Eco­nomic and So­cial Re­search Coun­cil-funded Party Mem­bers Project, found that 59 per cent were op­posed to the cur­rent EU With­drawal Agree­ment, with just 38 per cent sup­port­ing it.

It also asked Tory mem­bers how they would vote in a two-choice ref­er­en­dum that gave them the op­tion of Mrs May’s deal or no deal.

Only 29 per cent of Tory mem­bers said they would vote for Mrs May’s deal, while 64 per cent said they would vote to leave without a deal.

SA­JID JAVID is in talks with his French coun­ter­part to send mi­grants cross­ing the Chan­nel by boat back to France rather than al­low­ing them to seek asy­lum in Bri­tain. The Home Sec­re­tary is ex­pected to dis­cuss the pro­posal with Christophe Cas­taner, the French in­te­rior min­is­ter, at a meet­ing pen­cilled in for next week.

Bor­der Force of­fi­cials want to ex­ploit a Dublin agree­ment clause that al­lows the UK to send mi­grants back if it can be shown they have pre­vi­ously been in an EU state for more than three months.

The move is seen as a de­ter­rent to mi­grants from mak­ing the cross­ing if they know they will be re­turned to France and it comes af­ter Mr Javid ques­tioned whether they are gen­uine asy­lum seek­ers or eco­nomic mi­grants.

It rep­re­sents a fur­ther nod by Mr Javid, a po­ten­tial Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship con­tender, to back­bench Tory de­mands af­ter he caved in ear­lier this week by or­der­ing two Bor­der Force cut­ters back from their hu­man­i­tar­ian du­ties re­gard­ing refugees in the Mediter­ranean. They will join an­other cut­ter in the Chan­nel.

Mr Javid has also agreed that the Home Of­fice will pay the Min­istry of De­fence the £20,000-a-day re­quired to de­ploy HMS Mersey to pa­trol the Chan­nel un­til the cut­ters re­turn by the end of the month. He had re­port­edly tus­sled with Gavin Wil­liamson, the De­fence Sec­re­tary, over who should pay for the ship’s de­ploy­ment. Talks are still un­der way over the use of Navy aerial sur­veil­lance to track mi­grants.

The Home Of­fice says 539 mi­grants at­tempted to cross the Chan­nel in small boats last year, of which 80per cent were in the last three months of 2018.

The num­bers are still small by com­par­i­son with the over­all fig­ures for recorded at­tempts to il­le­gally en­ter the UK from North­ern France, which stood at 30,000 in 2017.

A Home Of­fice source said send­ing mi­grants back to France was a “key area of dis­cus­sion” with the French. “We are get­ting close to an agree­ment with them,” said the source.

“The French are be­ing sup­port­ive be­cause it could stop a lot of mi­grants us­ing France as a means of get­ting across. It would act as a de­ter­rent .... ”

Will Tan­ner, the di­rec­tor of the think tank On­ward, said: “The Gov­ern­ment’s ut­most pri­or­ity should be to send a clear sig­nal to the crim­i­nals, and those seek­ing to make a jour­ney, that to do so not only puts peo­ple’s lives at risk but is not the right route to be claim­ing asy­lum in the UK.

“Most peo­ple will find it stag­ger­ing that most asy­lum seek­ers [only] claim it when they are in the UK.”

Last night Mr Wil­liamson signed off for HMS Mersey to sup­port the UK Bor­der Force in its ef­forts to in­ter­cept mi­grants in the Chan­nel. He said it would also as­sist the French au­thor­i­ties.

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