Two-thirds of voters support extending Brexit transition period
Two-thirds of people in the UK want the Brexit transition period to be extended so the UK Government can "focus 100 per cent of its energy on dealing with coronavirus for the rest of the year", according to a new poll.
The Focaldata survey of more than 2,000 voters found that of those who support an extension, 64 per cent want to be be "indefinite", with the rest saying it should last for a year at most.
Nearly half of Leave voters - 49 per cent - also support delaying the UK's exit from the transition period, which is due to end on 31 Decemeber.
The findings emerged just days after Downing Street insisted that the Government would not back an extension, even if Brussels asked for one.
And they come on the eve of the latest round of negotiations on a UK-EU trade deal.
According to the poll, which was commissioned by pro-EU group Best For Britain and anti-racism campaign group HOPE not Hate, 66 per cent of British voters want the transition period - during which the UK continues to follow most European laws - extended because of the pandemic.
A breakdown of the data showed that 48 per cent of Conservative voters and 45 per cent of Brexit Party voters backed a delay.
Naomi Smith, the Best for Britain chief executive, said: "It is deeply worrying to see the Government adopt such an extreme stance on not extending the transition period, when weeks ago it was promising to do ‘whatever it takes’ to beat the virus.
"The views of small ‘c’ conservative voters in our data is telling. It’s patronising to suggest they would punish the Government at the ballot box for prioritising the country’s health over an arbitrary exit date.
"They are compromising. It may not be their preference, but everyone can see that the Government is overwhelmed by the task at hand and needs no further distractions.
"The government must take this opportunity to unchain itself, and most importantly our economy, from the 31 December exit date."
HOPE not hate chief executive Nick Lowles said: "Very little progress has been made on key negotiating points such as the level playing field commitments, while in areas such as fishing not even a draft text of our position has been published. That puts us far behind schedule.
"If we cannot agree a trade deal in time, the UK risks a double economic hit caused by a no-deal Brexit and a coronavirus-induced recession.
"We have only one chance to ask for an extension, and that has to be done by the end of June. The Government must urgently act to protect businesses and communities across the country."
Speaking last week, the Prime Minister's spokesman said: "We will not ask to extend the transition period and if the EU asks we will say no.
"Extending the transition would simply prolong the negotiations and prolong business uncertainty and delay the moment of control of our borders.”
The spokesman added: "It would also keep us bound by EU legislation at a point where we need legislative and economic flexibility to manage the UK response to the coronavirus pandemic."