Poll finds half of Britons support second Brexit vote as talks with EU come down to the wire

Half of Britons support a second vote on whether to leave the European Union and a third think will be worse off financially outside the world’s largest trading bloc, according to a new opinion poll.

The poll, published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, found 50 percent of people support another vote on the final terms of Britain’s exit deal, 34 percent rejected another referendum and 16 percent said they did not know.

The newspaper said it was the first major opinion poll since last week’s media reports that Britain is preparing to pay about €50 billion ($59 billion) to help to pave the way for talks on a future trade pact with the EU.

The poll found 35 percent of those surveyed said they will be worse off financially after Brexit, while 14 percent said they will be better off.

The online poll, carried out by research firm Survation, interviewed 1,003 adults in Britain between Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Mike Smithson, an election analyst who runs the www.politicalbetting.com website and a former Liberal Democrat politician, said on Twitter it is “the first time any pollster has recorded backing” for a second Brexit referendum.

Since the referendum in 2016, high profile opponents of Britain’s exit — from French President Emmanuel Macron to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and billionaire investor George Soros — have suggested Britain could change its mind and avoid what they say will be disastrous for the British economy.

Blair told the BBC on Sunday that Britain could change its mind about leaving the EU.

“It’s reversible. It’s not done until it’s done,” he said.

Blair said what the government is seeking to negotiate is not possible.

“They are trying to negotiate getting out of the single market while re-creating all of its benefits,” Blair said. “That’s not going to happen.”

Survation said it carries out polls for media organizations including the BBC, Sky News, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian.

On Monday Brexit talks are set to face down the prospect of being torpedoed by the taboo issue of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), a senior British official said, as Prime Minister Theresa May headed to Brussels with the best offer her party will tolerate.

While a deal on what happens to the Irish border after Brexit is still to be done, the role of the ECJ in enforcing the rights of citizens emerged as the greatest obstacle Sunday after a weekend of intense talks, according to the British official and a person familiar with the EU side. May has offered all that she can and a rejection from Europe now will risk a breakdown in talks, according to the U.K. official.

May is set to lunch with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday, which the EU has set as the final deadline for her to come up with concessions if she wants talks to move on to trade by year-end.

The U.K. pushed back against the deadline, saying the crucial date is the EU council summit on Dec. 14, and U.K. officials Sunday played down expectations of an imminent breakthrough.

“With plenty of discussions still to go, Monday will be an important staging post on the road to the crucial December council,” the British government said in a statement late Sunday.

May is prepared to make some concessions on the role of the ECJ after Brexit, enraging members of her Conservative Party for whom the court is a symbol of lost sovereignty. But the compromise may not go far enough to satisfy the EU.

The U.K. is aiming to win the approval of the other 27 EU states for talks to move on from the separation to the future relationship at the leaders’ summit on Dec. 14. Lunch on Monday is meant to be a stepping stone toward that. Without progress by the end of December, officials on both sides worry Brexit negotiations will collapse.

Some Tory euroskeptics, already uneasy with May’s concessions on the financial settlement that Britain will pay when it leaves, think May should be ready to walk out now.

“If they don’t want to go for trade, the money should be off the table, and if there are no trade talks by Christmas we need to get ready to depart on World Trade Organization terms,” former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said in an interview.

Two other divorce issues need to be signed off before negotiations can move on: an outline agreement has been reached on the financial settlement and talks have intensified on how a hard border can be avoided on the island of Ireland once Northern Ireland quits the EU along with the rest of the U.K.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Sunday he hopes for progress, and that Ireland will not ask “the impossible” of May. Coveney said he isn’t looking for final answers in order for talks to progress, but an agreement on the “parameters” for resolving the issue in the months ahead.

The Irish Cabinet is to meet Monday and an EU official said there is some optimism — though the deal is not done. One British official said the prospect of a solution to the Irish question is still bleak.

May will set out her case to Juncker at the European Commission’s headquarters. The pair are likely to be accompanied by U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier for the meal, according to two British officials.

Before they sit down to eat, Davis and Barnier are planning to hold a separate meeting to take stock of progress made during frantic behind the scenes negotiations last week and over the weekend.

The battle of the ECJ is of totemic importance on both sides. European leaders want the ECJ to keep its legal power to protect the rights of EU citizens living in Britain after Brexit in 2019, arguing that U.K. courts could dilute the entitlements of foreign nationals over time.

May has previously ruled this out but is now offering to give the ECJ a permanent role, to the dismay of many euroskeptics in her own party.

Under May’s plan, the Supreme Court in London will be able, voluntarily, to refer cases involving EU citizens to the ECJ, when the law needs to be clarified.

That doesn’t go far enough for those who want to maintain an automatically binding role for the Luxembourg-based court.

Officials in London believe France and Germany are the most resistant to May’s plan, privately saying that the negotiations will be pushed back if these two countries do not compromise.

The European Parliament, which has a veto over the final deal, has also demanded a role for the ECJ and last week called for the U.K. to do more to defend EU citizens’ rights after Brexit.

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