by Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor, 3rd September 2018
The majority of voters in the Conservatives’ most marginal constituencies believe Theresa May’s Chequers plan is “bad for Britain”, a new poll has found as critics warned it is now more hated than the poll tax.
A survey of 22,000 voters in the Conservatives’ 44 most marginal seats found that three-quarters of people are “dissatisfied” with the Government’s handling of Brexit negotiations.
Over half of those polled believe the policy is “bad” for Britain, while just 21 per cent believe it is “good”. The poll found that Brexit is considered more important in the marginal constituencies than the NHS and the economy.
On Monday the Prime Minister faced a mounting backlash from both Leave and Remain Tory MPs after Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, branded Chequers a “disaster” in an article for The Telegraph.
Downing Street hit back at Mr Johnson on Monday, saying he offered “no new ideas” while Mrs May is offering “serious leadership and a serious plan”.
However, Justine Greening, a Tory MP and prominent Remainer who is calling for a second referendum, says she agrees with Mr Johnson as she warns Chequers is now less popular than the poll tax.
Writing for The Telegraph on Monday, she says: “It (the Chequers proposal) is now an unpopular, undeliverable mess that neither people nor Parliament will accept.
“King Canute politics is not what Britain needs. And on the Chequers Agreement, the tide has already come in.”
Her view was echoed by Tony Blair, the former Labour Prime Minister who is also campaigning for a second referendum, who told Euronews that Chequers is “doomed to fail” because it will be voted down by MPs.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading Eurosceptic Tory MP, travelled to Brussels on Monday with a delegation of MPs and met Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
He said he has more in common with Mr Barnier than Mrs May on Brexit, and there was “considerable agreement that Chequers is absolute rubbish”.
Lord Hague warns in The Telegraph that the Tory civil war over Brexit risks a “terrible chain of events” which could either end in a no-deal Brexit or a second referendum. He says both outcomes risk the fall of the Conservative Government.
The survey of Tory marginals was commissioned by Global Britain, a pro-Brexit campaign group, and conducted by IQR, a marketing research company.
Brian Monteith, director of communications at Global Britain, said: “The clear message for any Conservative MP, whether in a Leave or Remain constituency, is ‘back Chequers and pay the price at the ballot box’. Chequers will not deliver Brexit, it will deliver Corbyn.”
The survey found 45 per cent of voters believe Brexit and the EU is the most important issue, compared to 17 per cent who believe the NHS is the most important and 7 per cent the economy.
Overall 73 per cent of voters were dissatisfied with the Government’s handling of Brexit negotiations.
The poll found that 45 per cent of voters believe Chequers is bad for their family compared to 19 per cent who think it is good, while 47 per cent believes it is staying in the EU in all but name.
Nearly a third of voters said Chequers would make them less likely to support the incumbent MP, while 19 per cent say it would make them more likely to give their backing.
Eight in 10 of the marginal constituencies voted Leave during the referendum, according to estimates, while the seats include eight ministers.
Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Once again the good sense of the British electorate shines through. They recognise that Chequers is a pup, it is very dangerous for the Government because it fails to deliver on the result of the EU referendum. It makes the poll tax look respectable.”