- Boris Johnson risks a backlash from Brexit supporters if he delays the UK’s departure from the EU beyond October.
- Nearly two-thirds of Leave voters say Johnson would share the blame if the UK is forced to seek a Brexit later this month, which appears inevitable.
- The poll indicates Downing Street’s fears that a delay could damage the Conservative Party’s standing in the polls ahead of a possible general election later this year.
- However, an even greater proportion (83%) of the public would blame Members of Parliament as a whole if Brexit does not take place in October.
LONDON — Boris Johnson risks a major backlash from voters at the next election if he delays Brexit according to new polling which finds that nearly two-thirds of Leave voters and three-quarters of Conservative voters believe the prime minister will share the blame if the UK is forced to seek an Article 50 extension.
The ComRes study for the Daily Telegraph found that just over half (56%) of voters would hold the Prime Minister responsible if Brexit does not take place by the October 31 deadline.
That figure rises nearly two-thirds (64%) among 2016 Leave voters, and three-quarters (75%) among Conservative voters.
The figures are significant because they illustrate why Downing Street is so keen to avoid seeking a delay, which Johnson could be forced to do in less than two weeks.
The Conservative Party is currently polling on 32%, with the Lib Dems trailing on 23%, Labour on 21%, and the Brexit Party on 12%, according to the latest YouGov poll.
That lead could be enough to win the party a slim majority if there is an election later this year, but the government fears it could lose support to the Brexit Party if it fails to deliver on its central pledge to leave the EU by October 31.
Johnson will likely be forced to break his “do-or-die” pledge to leave the EU by Halloween because MPs last month passed a law which orders him to request an Article 50 extension to delay Brexit if he cannot agree a Brexit deal by October.
That paves the way for an election later this year, most likely in November, after Labour rejected one in September until Article 50 had been delayed.
The survey suggests that Johnson’s strategy of seeking to preemptively blame his opponents for any delay may still work, however.
The ComRes poll found that an even greater proportion (83%) of the public would blame parliament if Brexit does not take place in October.
Seven in ten said they would blame Remain-supporting MPs specifically, while nearly two-thirds (63%) said the European Commission would share some of the blame.
ComRes polled 2,006 British adults between October 4 and 6 for its survey.
A ‘very fair, generous and reasonable offer’
The EU has indicated that it will reject Johnson’s proposals, tabled last week, to remove the Irish backstop from the current deal, meaning the chances of a deal by next weekend’s EU summit are vanishingly small.
Boris Johnson on Monday night urged Brussels to consider his “very fair, generous and reasonable offer.”
“We haven’t really heard the detail from them about what they think the problems are,” he said.
“It’s time for us to get together and really thrash this thing out.”
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But a Downing Street source, widely believed to be Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings, told the Spectator magazine that talks will “probably end this week.”
The source predicted that MPs who passed the extension law, called the Benn Act, were responsible for torpedoing negotiations.
“Those who pushed the Benn Act intended to sabotage a deal and they’ve probably succeeded,” they said.
“So the main effect of it will probably be to help us win an election by uniting the leave vote and then a no-deal Brexit. History is full of such ironies and tragedies.”
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