Brexit more important than keeping the UK together, public say in poll for the Telegraph

Ben Riley-Smith
Theresa May has rejected the SNP’s demand for a second Scottish independence referendum - Telegraph

Brexit is more important to voters than keeping the United Kingdom together, an opinion poll for The Telegraph has indicated. 

Sixty per cent of respondents agreed that Britain’s EU departure mattered more than stopping the UK’s break-up, while just 27 per cent disagreed. 

Furthermore a majority of people said they would still vote for Brexit even if they knew it could trigger Scotland’s independence. 

The results suggest there is no "buyer’s remorse" over Brexit despite a dramatic week in which the UK’s future has been called into question. 

Polls show Brexit bigger than the Union

Theresa May has rejected the SNP’s demand for a second Scottish independence referendum before spring 2019, saying “now is not the time”. 

Number 10 wants to ensure any repeat of the 2014 referendum – which saw Scots vote to remain in the UK by 55 per cent to 45 per cent – does not happen until Brexit has “bedded in”. 

However, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, has accused the Prime Minister of being “undemocratic” and is continuing to demand another vote. 

Senior SNP figures yesterday repeatedly refused to rule out holding an “advisory” independence referendum – one which would not be legally binding but could build pressure on Westminster. 

However, it is thought that the First Minister is more likely to pursue an intense campaign to whip up public opinion in favour of another referendum, including mass protests, marches and petitions.

Nicola Sturgeon has accused Theresay May of being “undemocratic” Credit: PA

An ORB poll of 2,000 British voters on Wednesday and Thursday gives an insight into how the week’s events have impacted their views. 

Asked whether they would still back Brexit “even if I knew it could lead to the breakup of the UK”, 51 per cent of voters agreed and 38 per cent disagreed. The rest said they did not know. 

There was also support for Mrs May’s stance that a Scottish independence referendum should not be held before spring 2019, the SNP’s proposed timetable. 

Almost 60 per cent of voters thought doing so would undermine Brexit negotiations, while just 22 per cent disagreed. Most UK voters also do not want Scotland to become independent. 

An ORB spokesman said: “The poll shows that there is substantial support for pushing through with Brexit despite the potential consequences for the Union.

“The majority believe that Brexit is more important, and would back Brexit even if this led to the future breakup of the UK”.” 

Ms Sturgeon was under pressure to categorically rule out holding an “illegitimate” referendum without Mrs May’s authority after she refused to disclose the “various options” she is considering.

The First Minister said her “intention” was to get the legal powers from the Prime Minister to stage another vote and she would not outline possible Plan Bs to the Scottish people “at this stage”.

Scottish Independence | How Scotland voted in 2014

Ms Sturgeon was pressed about her intentions after Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Westminster leader, opened the party spring conference in Aberdeen by telling delegates unequivocally that another vote “will” happen on her timetable.

But Scottish Labour said the SNP must rule out the possibility of an “illegitimate and divisive referendum” that would divide Scotland further and not stand up to legal scrutiny.

Downing Street made clear that the necessary powers were reserved to Westminster. David Cameron agreed to transfer the powers for the 2014 after signing the Edinburgh Agreement with Alex Salmond about its terms.

If they tried to unilaterally hold an advisory vote, the Nationalists would face the embarrassing prospect of Holyrood's authorities ruling that their referendum bill was not competent because constitutional affairs are outside the parliament’s powers.

Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon Credit: LESLEY MARTIN/AFP/

Ms Sturgeon could also face a battle in Scotland’s courts to stage a vote on her own terms and it would probably result in a mass boycott from Unionist voters, fatally undermining the result’s legitimacy.

Her spokesman rejected holding a snap Holyrood election to break the impasse, arguing it would be pointless as Mrs May could continue to ignore any fresh SNP mandate.

The Scottish Parliament is still expected to vote next week to give the First Minister the authority to ask Mrs May for the powers to hold another referendum. Holyrood has a nationalist majority of SNP and Green MSPs.

Ms Sturgeon told ITV News: “I have got various options that I would consider but with the greatest of respect I’m not going to share them with you right now. Well I will share them with the people of Scotland and the people of Scotland will have the right to know them once we are at that stage."

She claimed that pressure should be put on the Prime Minister “to realise what an unsustainable position she is in before people start asking me what Plan Bs are”.

Ms Sturgeon added: “I don’t think I should be getting into Plan Bs at this stage when I am putting forward a Plan A that has such a strong cast iron mandate."

Mrs May yesterday dismissed Ms Sturgeon’s plans for a new independence referendum as “muddle on muddle” as she rejected the “divisive, obsessive” nationalism of the SNP.

The Battle for Britain: May vs Sturgeon, in pictures.

The Prime Minister used her speech to the Conservative Spring Forum in Cardiff to suggest that Ms Sturgeon had been plotting since last year to use Brexit as a “pretext” for a new referendum.

Pledging to defend the “precious, precious Union”, Mrs May said she wanted the country to become more, not less, united - “one that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home”.

Mrs May told delegates: “Our Party believes heart and soul in our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“The precious bond between four nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

“But that union is more than just a constitutional artefact. It is a union between all of our citizens, whoever we are and wherever we’re from.”

 

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