More than half of Tory members want UK to leave EU without a deal
Most Conservative Party members would prefer the UK to leave the European Union without a deal, according to a new poll.
The YouGov survey found that in a second referendum with three questions on the ballot paper, 57 per cent would vote to leave with no deal, 23 per cent would choose Theresa May's deal and 15 per cent would choose to remain in the EU.
The findings are another blow for the Prime Minister, who had hoped that support for the withdrawal agreement she has struck with Brussels would grow as the 29 March departure date approaches and the prospect of no-deal increases.
MPs are due to finally vote give their verdict on May's plan on 15 January after she was forced to postpone a previous Commons vote because the Government was heading for a heavy defeat.
Professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University in London, who led the research, said: "If Theresa May is hoping that her MPs will return to Westminster having been persuaded by their constituency associations to back her Brexit deal, she's going to be disappointed.
"It appears that those members are in no mood for compromise. Moreover, the Tory rank and file, it seems, are convinced that no deal is better than May's deal."
May has been having talks with EU leaders over the Christmas break in a bid to persuade them to offer her sufficient reassurances that the UK will not be permanently trapped in the so-called "backstop" arrangement designed to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
A spokesperson for the European Commission yesterday repeated Brussels' insistence that the legally-binding withdrawal agreement struck in November will not be re-opened.
"The deal that is on the table is the best and only deal possible and the EU 27 leaders confirmed on 13 December in their conclusions that will not be renegotiated,” they said. “As I understand for now, no further meetings are foreseen between the Commission’s negotiators and the UK’s negotiators as negotiations have indeed concluded."
According to The Times, the EU is planning to make a public statement offering the UK reassurances on the backstop in advance of the Commons vote.
However, they have been dismissed as "operation figleaf" by Whitehall officials, who fear it will not go far enough to satisfy rebel Tories or the DUP.