The regular poll from Opinium for the Observer came out this weekend. Topline figures are CON 43%(+3), LAB 39%(-1), LDEM 6%(-1). Fieldwork was on Tuesday and Wednesday and changes are since last month. This is the largest Conservative lead Opinium have shown since the election, following the trend we’ve seen from other pollsters of a modest improvement in the government’s position in the polls.

The rest of the survey had a numnber of questions on Brexit. More of the public disapprove (44%) than approve (32%) of Theresa May’s handling of Brexit, but it’s less negative than their perception of how Jeremy Corbyn has handled it (19% approve, 48% disapprove) and they would trust the Conservatives more than Labour to handle Brexit negotiations by 33% to 20% (though a chunky 32% say either none or don’t know).

In a forced choice question between the staying in the single market and ending free movement of Labour, 40% would prefer the single market, 34% would prefer ending free movement, 26% don’t know. As you’d expect, this break is overwhelmingly down Remain/Leave lines – by 70% to 8%, remainers would prefer to stay in the single market; by 60% to 14% leavers would prefer to limit freedom of movement. A more interesting question asks what people think the position of the political parties is, underlying that a large proportion of the public don’t know what the parties stand for – 38% don’t know if the Conservatives prefer the single market or ending freedom of movement, 44% don’t know what Labour think, 48% don’t know what the Lib Dems think (and some that do get it wrong – 21% of people think the Conservative’s favour staying in the single market.

On a second referendum, 37% of people said there should be a second referendum on whether to accept the terms agreed or remain in the EU after all, 49% think there should not (as regular readers will know, this is one of those questions that produce quite varied responses depending on how the question is worded – other polling questions show a narrower split, probably because this question is quite explict about the referendum containing the option of staying in the EU after all, resulting in overwhelming opposition from Leavers).

Full tables are here.

344 Responses to “Opinium/Observer – CON 43, LAB 39, LDEM 6”

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  1. From the QUB poll

    “Our attitude survey reveals that 21% of the entire population would vote in favour of a united Ireland in a referendum, and 50% would vote to remain in the UK (others are ‘don’t knows’ or would not vote).

    Catholic opinion is split: 42% of Catholics would vote for a united Ireland; 21% to stay in the UK; and the rest are ‘don’t knows’ or ‘would not vote’. However, Catholic support is strongly conditional upon the outcome of the negotiations between theUK and the EU-27 and on economic expectations.

  2. According to the QUB Report:,820734,en.pdf#page=16

    We commissioned Ipsos MORI Northern Ireland to ask these questions in a survey of the attitudes of a representative sample of the Northern Ireland population. A sample of 1,012 people from across Northern Ireland were interviewed in their home in face-to-face computer-assisted interviews between 9 February and 12 March 2018.

    I can’t help wondering if this may have produced the very high level of DKs and WNVs in the United Ireland question (17% among Protestants, 37% among Catholics[1]. Even though the interviewer isn’t supposed to see the responses, the set up may encourage some interviewees to be cagier than they would be online.

    [1] See page 44. Irritatingly there’s no figures given for ‘neither’ who are often the swing vote on some topics.

  3. CMJ

    @”large MOE in them.”

    Indeed-thanks I have read enough AW threads to understand that :-)

  4. … control of our borders …

    If Ireland (“our only land border”) causes problems, then apply the slogan:

    Brexit means Brexit!

    In its most littoral sense, it means that GB (plus Wight, Anglesey, Skye etc) will leave the EU; but Northern Ireland will not.

  5. CB11

    MOE old chap-as CMJ says.

    So the last one was the correct answer-the other three were a small jest which I anticipated you might enjoy.


  6. Interesting article by the Scottish Conservative Unionist Alex Massie on Ireland and Brexit can be linked to through this tweet:


    Good post. IIRC, during the Scottish indyref campaign one of the pollsters [TNS?] used to add face-to-face voting questions to their monthly shopping polls.

    Given that 16 year-olds were given the vote, I’m not convinced that the results would have been entirely honest, even if parents and relations were entirely excluded from the individual interviews given the possibility that the interviewer might make an unintentional remark or her/his way out.

  8. On the reports of the Conservative Party preparing for a general election in the early Autumn: a possible explanation is that Mrs May is contemplating a policy U-turn on brexit and will issue a back-me-or-sack-me ultimatum to the electorate.

    The U-turn? Remaining in the EEA. It would be a political masterstroke, totally wrong-footing Labour and leaving the brexit ultras in her own party no time for a leadership challenge. It would also explain why the brexit negotiations and a lot of legislation are on hold.

  9. HAL, it sounds good, but it leaves her looking pretty stupid when the clips of her’re lines’ get rolled out. Also, surely Labour could just say “we agree” and move the debate straight back to public services, where they’re on to a winner.

  10. The request from Central office to marginal seats to prepare for an early GE is imo a warning to the ERG (and others) as to the inevitable consequence of HMG not getting the WA through the HOC.

    They just have to agree to what is in effect an extended transition period, although it will be called something else.

  11. The most revealing EU question in the Opinium poll is one that Anthony doesn’t mention (Tab V106A) Have you heard of the customs union and how much do you know about it?:

    I have heard of the customs union before and know a lot about it 14 %

    I have heard of the customs union before and something about it 40 %

    I have heard of the customs union before but don’t know anything about it 23 %

    I haven’t heard of the customs unions before 22 %

    So all statements about what people ‘want’ out of an EU deal should be informed by the fact that 45% of people admit they don’t know anything about it (39% of Remain voters, 47% of Leave voters)

  12. @garj

    No we are not missing the point of your original post nor indeed your sttempt to divert the argument on to another point now thst your mistake has been pointed out!

  13. Roger Mexico

    Presumably even fewer people knew about the customs union at the time of the vote (unless all the leavers have become forgetful in their old age).

  14. “But if I were Corbyn, I would still be anxious for a new election. The alternative is a “TBA Brexit deal”, which keeps Brexit firmly on the table for the next few years.

    But a moderately okay deal will be death to his chances. He will go from being seen by many supporters as the best hope to stop Brexit to the Labour leader who collaborated with the government.”

    I don’t think there’s any doubt the former is true. For any opposition leader within striking distance with years of the Parliament to run it goes without saying.

    But I don’t think the latter is a given.

    There is no doubt that we currently see a very polarised and somewhat becalmed picture with VI. It is highly likely that the current uncertainty over Brexit is a major factor in that. And it follows that if some of this is taken away by the next election some of that polarisation unwinds.

    But the polarisation is to both sides, and so could the unwind be.

    I assume “a moderately okay deal” is one that almost by defintion
    (a) is something that is not (yet) perceived as a triumph or a disaster;
    (b) is not something to fill either soft to middling leavers or soft to middling remainers with horror.

    So, for them, it takes the issue down the agenda, and domestic issues up. There’s certainly no guarantee this is necessarily bad for Labour. In 2017 they appeared rather to advance when the focus was domestic.

    For the hard leavers AND the hard remainers this will be a betrayal. Again, I can’t see why this is a one-sided unwinding. At least not the way you think. That the votes for Remain parties held up more than UKIP in 2017 suggest that if anything it is the hard Leave that is more completely currently in the polarised Con/Lab split, and if anything more susceptible to a post-compromise backlash.

    What is clear is that the Brexit deal is a potential game changer by the next election is a game changer. If it’s a perceived triumph, or a perceived distater, I’ll accept the next election is more or less settled. If it’s a wash, I can’t accept anything so certain.

  15. Not many GB polls have asked about NI but YouGov did ask some questions back in Feb

    UK’s top priorities (pick up to three)
    1. Own trade deals 38
    2. Tariff free trade with EU 38
    3. Co-operation with EU on security 36
    4. Control immigration 34
    5. Minimize divorce bill 30
    6. Break with ECJ 24
    7. Protect rights of UK citizens in EU 21
    8. Prevent a hard border in NI 14
    9. DK 13!!
    10. Other 3

    NB You can pick up to three! (i’ve have picked 1, 6 and 5 myself)

    Further evidence most Brits don’t care or know much about NI is in the next question where only 17% correctly knew that NI does more trade with rUK than RoI (23% of Leavers and an embarrassingly low 14% for Remain!!)

    More Remain incorrectly picked NI does more trade with ROI (net 2) where as Leave correctly picked NI does more trade with rUK (net 15). Huge DKs.

    Bit out of date but I’d be surprised if much change in the numbers. Hopefully all those Remain using NI as an excuse have at least bothered to check the trade data by now though!

  16. I’d be quite keen on a GE in late Autumn, early 2019 but a few more things need to happen first:

    1/ May takes a few more bullets then resigns saying she gave it her best shot but EU refuse to compromise (important she resigns and is not kicked out). CON then unite around a true Br-Leaver which alienates Soubs+co creating the deadlock in HoC to cause the need for a GE
    2/ New CON leader and CoE pre-spend the Brexit dividend on NHS etc and release the regional and sector planning for ‘no deal’. Action is important – words will not be enough.
    3/ Corbyn is boxed into a BINO outcome which splits the Remain vote with LDEM
    4/ LDEM promise to revoke+remain (and enough folks actually believe that!)

    Only one of several possible ways this plays out and it is risky for sure, but we’re into least bad outcomes at this stage!

  17. @TW “More Remain incorrectly picked NI does more trade with ROI (net 2) ”

    The tendency to hold cognitive dissonance-reducing beliefs is pretty common.

    If there must be a customs border, there is a tendency for Remain supporters to favour an East-West to a North-South one. My suspicion is that the main reason for this is that it causes most problems for the government’s Brexit strategy. But in case that appears petty or calculating, an ability to pretend there is an economic case for it too might be handy.

  18. Polls are looking good for the Conservatives to call a General Election in the Autumn to seal their Brexit deal.

    They have no competetion on the right anymore.

    Great position to be in with FPTP.

  19. Dez

    The Tories had better polls in the run-up to the last election and UKIP were crippled then as well.

    If I were Corbyn, I would be up for an autumn election.

  20. As for Scotland this poll is interesting:

    “English voters would rather lose Scotland than Gibraltar in the Brexit process… Just a third of English voters don’t think it’d be worth ditching Scotland to get out of the EU”

    Gibraltar was only on 37%
    Scotland 35%
    and lowest NI on 31%

    The poll wasn’t weighted and no tabs up yet but interesting none the less as I always thought I was in the minority on that one! Certainly from a cost to rGB tax payer Gibraltar is the cheapest of the three to keep!!

  21. Hawthorn .

    The Conservatives are confident , Corbyn will never be PM.
    They keep posting the best PM sub samples as a guide.

    Once the Brexit deal is signed , would be the best time to go for it ,before any impact is seen.

  22. @trevorwarne

    The no deal contingency planning is said to include RAF airlifts to get food ( and medical supplies) to Cornwall and Scotland as the indication is that supplies there would dry up in supermarkets in about two weeks in the event of the likely gridlock at the ports. Not sure that would be an election winner.

  23. Problem is, there is not going to be any deal on the current trajectory. It needs a large change of course, and ditching the Tory manifesto, to get one. Is that possible without another general election? I don’t think so.

  24. @ Trevor Warne

    There are so many permutations that it would be a very brave person who called a particular political path over the next 2-4 months.

    – Tories agree a position among themselves or not, if not then does May push on with that deal with support from other parties and then what would other parties do especially DUP?. Does she resign, does she call another general Election and how can she call another election when the reason is that the Tories can’t agree among themselves.

    – If she resigns then who takes over and what do they do (and how would they get their plan through the HOC if May can’t). Especially as it is quite possible that the Tories might choose a leader who is not one of the big leave or remain faces anyway.

    – If there is another election would there be another hung parliament. How would the electorate view an election presented something like WTO v Customs Union. Whatever opinion polls might suggest on a binary choice there may be other factors affecting how people vote anyway and Sunderland is not going to vote Tory or Woking vote Labour so opinion polling on CU v WTO is only relevant in the marginals.

    And all of this assumes that whatever position the Tories might agree would actually be agreed by the EU. This is likely to run in parallel rather than two choices from the EU which one do you want or two choices from the cabinet which one does the EU want.

    And that’s just for starters…

  25. “The request from Central office to marginal seats to prepare for an early GE is imo a warning to the ERG (and others) as to the inevitable consequence of HMG not getting the WA through the HOC.”


    And if May warns them “boy if you think the last campaign was bad, wait till you see the next one…”

  26. It would be incredibly high risk for May to go to the country in the Autumn. The polls are still likely to be very close by then so no guarantee she will win.
    How will it look to the electorate? Brexit negotiations stalled for a starters.

    May is risk adverse. It would be ironic if she went to the country twice in little over a year. In the circs I don’t think this will happen. It is a veiled warning to her Brexiteers that this is an option she has at her disposal so they need to play nicely.

  27. SHEVII @ TW

    A measured and sensible post.

    The only thing I would add would be what happens to the Lords’ amendments. May is a grown-up and probably knows that the only way short of remaining to avoid hard borders is the EEA option, which I don’t think that the DUP is likely to oppose, especially now that they know what the rest of NI thinks.

    If her party defenestrates her, of course, then all bets are off, but th all of the best PM ratings would also be lost with her.


    Neatly put.

  29. Dez

    Again, just like last time. Just needs the speculation to get out of control now. What could possibly go wrong?

    Don’t think even May is bad enough to make the same mistake twice.

  30. Hawthorn

    Conservatives main policy at the moment is anti Corbyn.

    Surely they have another strategy , if things change. ?

    However , they seem totally occupied with Brexit, and relying that anti Corbyn , will get them over the line.So this year might be there best shot.

    A GE after the deal is signed.
    With or without May.


    Unless she accepts the EEA amendments, there is a significant chance of there being no deal.

    I concur that could result in May being defenestrated but it is much less certain that whoever replaces her will get immediate FTPA agreement if she/he rejects that deal.

    As others have already posted, it seems much more likely that her awkward squad will support her rather than giving Lab an early opportunity.

  32. BZ

    I can’t see the awkward squad joining Corbyn in the lobby for a vote of no confidence in the Government.

    Surely they’d need to look for a new party under those circumstances?

  33. May’s problem is that if she tries the EEA without a mandate, contradicting the Conservative manifesto, there is highly likely to be a successful leadership challenge.

    Obviously she won’t go to the country for a general election if she does not have to, but I see no other path for her. Standing on an EEA manifesto would silence the brexit ultras. They would have no option but to back her or leave the party, since you can’t have a leadership election in the middle of a general election campaign.

  34. HAL

    I’m not sure how likely that challenge is to succeed. I read a report saying that backbench MPs (and the Chief Whip, who should know the numbers) would support her in enough numbers over the ERG for her to survive a leadership challenge.

  35. Alan,

    Yes, she looks safe enough now, while the policy is still hard brexit, with unicorns.

    But would that survive a substantial change of policy like EEA? I’m saying no it wouldn’t.

  36. ALAN @ BZ

    I can’t see the awkward squad joining Corbyn in the lobby for a vote of no confidence in the Government.

    Presuming you mean May’s awkward squad, I concur. Having witnessed UKIP destroying itself, however, I doubt that they will want to leave the Cons. I suppose they could join the DUP, but even that party must have some limits to allowable delinquency and will have current NI polling in mind at the prospect of no deal.

    From Lab’s point of view, I would expect some slack rope would be given for a while to allow them to hang themselves before calling an FTPA confidence vote.

  37. @ HIRETON – could you post the link to the RAF airlift story. Scotland, as they repeatedly tell everyone, exports food so they can take care of themselves but I am concerned about S.W.England – although plenty of Megrim Sole and cheaper non-EU sourced produce should make Brexit healthy and kind on the wallet for Cornish folk!

    @ SHEVII / BZ – It’s looking increasingly obvious that Brexit will hit deadlock in HoC due to the frustration tactics of the “useful idiots”. May will have to break at least one red line at some point or admit she can’t deliver the Brexit she intended to. I tend to agree with the reports that she might win a leadership challenge which is why I said it is important she walks and is not pushed.

    It’s one of many possible outcome. It’s my preference, ’tis all.

    @ CARFREW – May might not be leader in a snap GE. My second preference for how we get out of this mess is she delivers a Downing Street speech similar to the one from about a year ago. The one proviso there is she pins the whole austerity baggage on Hammond and kicks him out bringing in a new CoE who pre-spends the Brexit dividend.

    CON-Leave are still saddled with the NHS ‘bus’ but
    a/ We haven’t left yet
    b/ Hammond is Osborne2.0

    New CoE (bit too early to move Javid and I’d rather it wasn’t Gove but he might have to do), 350mn per week on NHS and clean up in the Midlands and the North, probably losing a few seats in London and the 1-2 Uni town seats that LAB don’t yet hold but if Remain vote is split then they might even net win some of the seats they lost in London!

    It’s obviously not without risk! Worst case is LAB have to patch together a very messy C+S with other parties and are boxed into BINO/Remain. When that falls apart CON win next election based on Clean Brexit.

    Of course this was how the 2017 GE was supposed to go but May tried to stick with austerity and ‘triple punch’ the grey vote! That won’t happen next time ;)

  38. HAL

    As I read it, it was a case of “You have enough numbers to get it through parliament and survive a leadership election if you change tack”. Essentially it said that the ERG couldn’t win a vote of no confidence. If the Chief Whip has come to that conclusion, then she’s survived long enough to defang the ERG.

    Bringing her down leads to a no-deal Brexit, there simply isn’t enough time to run a full fat leadership election (any format which bypasses the members is likely to not favour the ERG) and continue negotiations. If the ERG could bring her down, they would at this point. As they haven’t, there probably isn’t a majority of Tory MPs who would vote with them for a no deal outcome.

  39. The ‘reports’ (in Guardian, etc) assuming May would win a leadership challenge often compare the situation to Major.
    It’s similar but with notable differences.

    1/ There is a referendum result to honour!
    2/ The 1990s Maastricht rebels numbered 20-30. ERG+ is 60+
    3/ Major went on to be hammered in the next GE

    If you want to flip it around then the current ‘rebels’ within CON are the 17ish Remain (roughly a mirror image of the Maastricht rebellion and hence more likely to give a mirror image outcome at the next GE!)

    Anyway, since the GE disaster it has always been more likely she would face down the Remain rebels due to their lower numbers (if any facing down is to be done). We also need to bear in mind the DUP pact (something I never wanted but there is one way to deal with that – win a large enough majority not to need them, or die trying!)

  40. ALAN @ HAL @ ALAN

    I agree that May cannot change policy alone, but the EEA vote in the HoL has a decent chance of being approved in the HoC. If that does occur, then she can accept it gracefully and dare her awkward squad to vote her down.

    I do suspect that Corbyn was cross with his Lords for allowing this effectively “get out of jail free” card, but think it would be safer to let May plough her own row until her actual leave policy is known. As has already been said, EEA could be welcomed and the Lab attack started immediately on purely UK funding issues.

  41. P.S. As others are starting to work out the default is ‘no deal’ and there is not enough time to rerun a GE and a new ref (but possibly time for one of those). ERG can sit and wait, ensuring May sticks to the CON manifesto (very clear about leaving CU, leaving SM and leaving ECJ). Let May take all the flak and tick the clock down.

    NB This is not how I wanted Brexit to happen but simply an opinion of ‘what happens now’.

  42. @ BZ – Corbyn doesn’t want EEA. I’d love that vote to come out as a stand alone vote and hence either ‘out’ him as a Brexiteer and hopefully split the LAB party or box him into BINO.

    If you care to show the HoC maths that would have enough CON MPs break a manifesto promise (my guess is 17 absolute maximum) and enough Blairite MPs to support them (? no idea) then please go ahead. I would expect a large ‘abstain’ from LAB, possibly even whipped to abstain. To win an EEA vote you’d need LAB whipped into supporting it.

    I hope it happens. The other 14 HoL amendments are a mixture of ‘out of order’ or easy to swat down but the EEA one might just split LAB – fingers crossed as they say ;)


    Nobody knows how the votes will proceed.

    I’m surprised that in your scenario you seem to assume that the DUP will vote for seppuku. Let’s wait and see.

  44. UK government has already said that it will automatically leave the EEA by virtue of the exit from the EU in March 2019. If that is the case and the UK wishes to be in the EEA it will have to rejoin by way of applying to join EFTA. Unless of course enough members of parliament take the view that parliament has to decide whether the UK leaves the EEA by virtue of leaving the EU. A court might have to decide that – which one?

    It might be that the UK government would want to withdraw Art 50?

  45. I just can’t see a snap election. More or less the same candidates running, probably similar outcome (or close to it as in 2017) – it doesn’t solve anything.

    Replacing May (in the 1618 manner) doesn’t make sense either – I don’t think the Tories could get away with one candidate again and the membership would vote for the most Brexit candidate if there was a competition, while the Conservative PP can only yield one Remainer and one Leaver.

    Mind, I’m not good in predicting (most of the times), and I’m assuming rational considerations.

  46. OK Laszlo, what’s the ‘1618 manner’ ? The defenestration of Prague?

  47. The danger for anyone calling or forcing an election is that there is little public appetite for it.

    With the Brexit clock ticking and the date for finalising an agreement that the UK and EU can sign off before the deadline being the Autumn anyone calling an election at that time risks the wrath of the electorate.

    How do you explain to the electorate that with only a matter of weeks to finalise one of the most important agreements in a generation you’ve decided to suspend everything for six weeks to argue amongst ourselves.

    There would be a real chance that many of the public would see it as a self indulgent disgrace and they could punish those they blame.

    It might seem counter intuitive but I’d advise the SNP to oppose an Autumn election.

    Call for May to step aside and for a minority government with a mandate for a soft brexit either with Labour or a different tory leader to take over, but oppose an election at such a crucial time.

    State that you would only support it till the spring when the deal was signed but that looking inward at the crucial time in the negotiations was not in the national interest.

    If it works we can have far more influence in getting the Brexit Scotland wants, if it doesn’t you fight an unwanted election able to say it’s not our fault.


  48. SAM

    Article 127 of the EEA Agreement requires 12 months notice of withdrawal, but of all unlikely places UKIP have what seems a reasonable representation of it here, which includes:

    Thursday (29th March 2018) was the last day on which the Government could have given formal notification that it wished to withdraw from the European Economic Area Agreement (EEAA) on Brexit Day (29th March 2019), in accordance with Article 127 of the Agreement. As it has consistently indicated was its intention, the Government did not send a notice of withdrawal to the other parties to the Agreement. This raises the immediate question: how do things stand now?


    Since the EEAA is one of those international agreements, it is clearly envisaged that UK will continue to be bound by it during the transition, subject only to the consent of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. That consent can be confidently expected, the EEAA being an existing free trade agreement with the UK, a major market for Iceland and Norway.

    If the draft Withdrawal Agreement, inclusive of Article 124(1), is eventually ratified, there will be no concurrent UK withdrawal from the EEA on Brexit day. The UK will remain an EEA participant throughout the transition period and the deadline for the notification of any future withdrawal will be put back until 31st December 2019, one year ahead of the projected end of the transition. By then the prospects for success in achieving the kind of longer-term settlement sought by the Government (whatever that might turn out to look like) will be clearer. And at that stage, the Article 127 issues will need to be faced again, albeit in different circumstances.

    Sounds reasonable to me. Time to lie down, I think….

  49. RJW

    Yes, and unintentionally starting a 30-year war. But those pushed out of the window survived the fall (it’s full of coincidences really).

  50. Laszlo: agreed, I can’t see a snap election either. The Tories aren’t stupid enough to make the same mistake twice. (Though you could argue that it wasn’t calling the general election that was the mistake, so much as the abject campaign that followed.)

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