Eight out of ten grassroots members of Britain’s opposition Labour Party want a referendum on the terms of the country’s exit from the European Union, according to a survey.
That is at odds with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s official policy, which calls for parliament, not the public, to have the final say on the terms of the deal.
It indicates a strong desire among the party’s rank and file members for a chance to demand a rethink on Brexit, or even overturn the outcome of the June 2016 vote to leave the EU.
Eighteen months after voting 52% to 48% to withdraw from the EU, Britons remain deeply divided over leaving a bloc that has defined much of the country’s laws, trade policy and international outlook over more than four decades of membership.
Theresa May’s Conservative minority government has dismissed the idea of a second referendum.
But ministers have already been forced to give parliament a greater say in the Brexit process than they initially wanted to after members of Mrs May’s own party rebelled on the issue in December.
Today's survey of attitudes within Britain’s main political parties showed 49% of Labour members definitely wanted a second referendum on the exit deal and a further 29% said they were more in favour of the idea than against it.
The poll of more than 4,000 members of political parties was conducted shortly after last June’s national election as part of a three-year academic project by the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London to discover more about people who belong to political parties.
It showed even higher demand for a second vote on Brexit among members of the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party. By contrast, only 14% of Conservative Party members wanted a referendum on the exit deal.
Opinion polls measuring the views of the wider electorate show similar divisions over Brexit. In December, one survey showed 50% of voters supported a second referendum while 34% did not.
Labour’s official stance on Brexit gained new significance after last year’s general election saw them perform better than expected.
That helped reopen a national debate about Brexit, depriving Mrs May of the unequivocal mandate she was seeking for her plan to take Britain out of the EU, its single market and the bloc’s customs union.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Tony Blair has accused the Labour Party of timidity over Brexit and urged the party he once led to instead "make Brexit the Tory Brexit".
Mr Blair said he disagreed with the party's stance strategically, saying it was mistaken tactically.
"Because the Labour Party is saying that we too would do Brexit, we cannot attack its vast distractive impact.
"Labour could mount such a powerful assault on the government's record from the appalling state of the NHS to crime, which through neglect and failure to support the police is on the rise again, if we were saying to the country: here's the agenda which could be delivered for the people were it not for the fact that all the energies of government and substantial amounts of cash are devoted to Brexit."