Most Tory members would back no deal
Grassroots support for hard Brexit stands at 57pc, while just 23pc approve of May’s deal
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.