A study conducted by IPSOS-Mori in on behalf of Queens College London and the think-tank UK in a Changing Europe in late 2017 has found that 74 percent of Conservative Members of Parliament are implacably opposed to a continuation of freedom of movement between the UK and the EU even during a transitional arrangement. 63 percent also considered Britain remaining subject to the European Court of Justice during a transitional period to be unacceptable. The findings place a majority of the party at odds with Prime Minister Theresa May's efforts to broker a less abrupt exit from the institutions of the European Union.
Soon after the 2016 referendum fewer than half of Conservative MPs, 44 percent, believed that the poll's result would preclude Britain remaining in the Single Market. As of the end of 2017 this has increased to 76 percent representing a significant hardening of position among the party's members.
Alan Wager a Research Fellow at UK in a Changing Europe conducted analysis of the data which was based face to face interviews with over a hundred sitting members of both the Conservative and Labour parties and spoke to Sputnik on the findings.
"We were surprised at some of the changes over the last year, specifically that the Conservative Party has swung massively against remaining in the Single Market and the Labour Party is massively in favor of staying in the Single Market despite the fact that not being the position of the Labour leadership. We were expecting some change in the position of the Labour Party against staying in the Single Market and actually, there's been no shift at all there," he said.
Noting that the poll's results put both the Prime Minister and Opposition leaderships in an awkward position, Mr. Wager added that it remains the Prime Minister's survival that is most at stake.
"That's something that could be problematic for Theresa May going forward in the next few months. At the end of the year Parliament has ensured that it will get a meaningful vote on the Brexit process and that will be a vote not just on the final deal but what final deal there is for the transition period and if Parliament sees the transition period as not involving the continuation of freedom of movement and a continuing role for the European Court of Justice, that could mean she could find it difficult to push through the transition which is vital for ensuring to kind of Brexit that she wants," he said.
The gulf in positions on EU issues however remains greatest between the Labour leader and his MPs.
"In a sense Jeremy Corbyn is in a more problematic position in that his party is still clearly very pro-European and has hardened its position on things like the Single Market. So, it doesn't seem that he's been able to convince Labour MPs that they don't have an alternative that involves staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union. Jeremy Corbyn is further from his party than May is to the Conservatives."
Mr. Corbyn has already survived repeated attempts by his party to unseat him from the leadership, largely because of his positions on the EU, his allegedly lukewarm support for the Remain Campaign and statements that suggest he may favor a more dramatic break with Europe.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the analysts and do not necessarily reflect the position of Sputnik.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.