Remain and Leave “content with disrupted constitution”

Supporters of remaining in and departing from the EU are both willing to see Britain’s unwritten constitution disrupted to get the Brexit outcome they want, according to a survey involving the University of Strathclyde.

The research found that similar numbers of people who either want to leave or remain – two thirds - would be in favour of doing “whatever is necessary” to achieve Britain either staying in, or leaving the EU - even if it meant breaking constitutional conventions.

The findings indicate that many voters would be content for MPs to bend, or even break, regulations to secure their preferred outcome.

The study, led at the University of Exeter, was carried out through SurveyMonkey between 5-9 September. It canvassed the views of 2,692 people in the UK, with the sample weighted to be demographically representative.

Professor Tom Scotto, head of Strathclyde’s School of Government & Public Policy, was a partner in the study. He said: “In recent months, we have seen both sides of the Brexit divide push beyond the boundaries of what is normal — proroguing Parliament, taking control of the order paper, and wholesale removal of the whip all leap to mind.

“Our survey suggests both Leavers and Remainers seem to believe it is acceptable to break the impasse by stepping outside the norms and conventions of the unwritten British constitution.”

People who support Brexit were asked if they agreed that “Leavers in Parliament should do whatever is necessary to make sure the UK leaves the EU on 31 October.” Around three quarters – 76% - agreed.

Approximately one half of leavers were asked a nearly identical question – the only difference being a clause at the end of the question that added “even if it breaks the conventions of our unwritten constitution.” In this second question, the proportion willing to support whatever it takes fell by 14 percentage points to 62%.

The survey followed the same procedure for Remain supporters – half of those who took part in the survey were asked if “Remainers in Parliament should do whatever is necessary to stop a no-deal Brexit,” while the other half received a version that added the clause “even if it breaks the conventions of our unwritten constitution.”

Five out of six - 83 per cent- Remain supporters agreed with the version without the constitutional violation clause. The proportion that agreed when the question included “even if it breaks the conventions of our unwritten constitution” fell to 67%.

The study was led by Professor Jason Reifler of Exeter and also involved Tim Gravelle of SurveyMonkey.