Controlling immigration should take a back seat to protecting jobs and the economy when the government thrashes out a Brexit deal, a mega-poll of voters has shown.
A GQR poll conducted for the TUC, and shared exclusively with HuffPost UK, showed a majority of voters wanted the Prime Minister to prioritise the economy over immigration as the UK exits the bloc.
The poll of 3,000 people also showed a huge majority (67%) was concerned leaving the EU could lead to the Government cutting workers’ rights.
But the data also revealed few voters hoped the country would remain a member of the EU, with 71% urging politicians to “make a success of Brexit”.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said the data is evidence that the country is moving towards a soft Brexit and maintaining membership of the single market.
She said: “This poll shows that while many people do want controls on immigration, the majority of voters see the economy as a higher priority.
“It is a mistake for the Prime Minister to rule out single market membership. The best way to build an economy that works for working people is for her to prioritise tariff-free and barrier-free trade with the EU.
“The PM’s tough talk about a no-deal Brexit has to end. No deal could mean no job for too many people in too many industries – and a big hit on the nation’s finances.”
It comes as the cabinet appears split over what direction Brexit should take, with Chancellor Phillip Hammond at odds with Brexit Secretary David Davis and Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary.
During a speech in Berlin, Hammond warned against a Brexit “cliff edge” with trade tariffs and allowing “petty politics to interfere with economic logic”.
He urged the government to secure a transitional deal that would protect businesses.
But, at a separate event in London, Davis said the UK would leave both the customs union and single market by March 2019.
James McGrory, executive director of the pro-remain campaign group Open Britain, added: “The British public are very clear – whether they voted leave or remain, they do not support a Brexit deal that will put jobs at risk and damage our economy.
“The extreme, chaotic path the Government are taking will do just that. Leaving the single market and customs union will restrict trade with our biggest market, damaging businesses and risking peoples’ livelihoods.
“Ministers need to keep the promise they made before the elections and deliver a trade deal with Europe that protects jobs and delivers the ‘exact same benefits’ as single market and customs union membership.”
The poll also showed that Theresa May’s decision to focus on Brexit during the general election paid off as it was the second most important issue to voters after protecting public services.
Those concerned about Brexit and immigration overwhelmingly plumped for the Conservatives, 81% to Labour’s 9%.
And among those concerned about Brexit, but not about immigration, the Conservatives were still miles ahead - 49% to 31% - with voters unconvinced Labour could secure a good deal from the other EU states.
Peter McLeod, vice president of the research group GQR, said that there was little focus on the economy in the Conservatives’ campaign, despite a strong accent on Brexit and leadership.
He said the party who could convince voters Brexit could be secured without trashing the economy would win more votes if an election were called tomorrow.
That so many people thought public services was a key issue at the election is a credit to Labour’s campaign,” he said.
“But Brexit is not going away any time soon and Labour will have to win over more of the people who are concerned about it.
“They have much the best chance among people who are worried about Brexit but not so much about immigration – and that amounts to 30% of the electorate. But to win them, Labour needs to convince that it has a plan that will deliver a Brexit with minimum disruption to the economy.
*Polling note: GQR polled 3,102 people between Friday 9 June and Monday 12 June. Results weighted to GB demographics and 2017 General Election result. The TUC commissioned the poll and it was developed in partnership with Edelman.