In The Lawyer‘s survey of over 1,000 professionals in the legal sector, more than 50 per cent now back the revocation of the Article 50 notification to exit from the European Union.
A total of 1,061 legal sector workers took part in the survey conducted between 22 and 25 March, which found that 12 per cent favour a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, while just 9 per cent backing the deal that Prime Minister Theresa May has managed to negotiate.
Just over a quarter – 26 per cent – say the question of what to do next should be put to a public vote in the form of a referendum, but the majority – 52 per cent of respondents – believe that revocation of Article 50 is now the best course of action.
Lawyers voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU in the referendum three years ago, data collected by The Lawyer in the wake of the result showed, and their opinion has not changed radically since then, despite the huge fees that many law firms have racked up advising their clients on Brexit-related matters.
Despite their preference for remaining in the EU, most legal professionals still believe the UK will ultimately exit the Union, with 32 per cent predicting a no-deal Brexit scenario and a further 29 per cent forecasting that May will eventually force her deal through Parliament.
The majority of both leave and remain voters held to the view that some form of Brexit will take place. However, remainers were more likely to predict a referendum than leavers, while leavers were more convinced Article 50 might be revoked than remainers.
Not many of the few lawyers who voted to Leave appear to have changed their mind. Some 70 per cent of respondents who fall in this category now want a no-deal Brexit, with 4 per cent backing a referendum and 7 per cent the revocation of Article 50.
However, of those lawyers who were eligible but did not vote in the 2016 referendum, 46 per cent favour a referendum, 40 per cent say Article 50 should be revoked, 8 support no deal and 6 per cent May’s deal.
There was little difference between respondents’ views when broken down by seniority. Partners were as likely to want to see Article 50 revoked as paralegals, trainees, or business services staff. Junior members of the profession were slightly more likely to predict a no-deal scenario than partners, however (34 per cent compared to 27 per cent).
In a sign that the legal profession sees neither main party as fit to govern, 25 per cent of respondents said they would vote for The Independent Group if it formed a party and stood candidates at the next election. Two members of the breakaway group – Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry – are qualified lawyers.
A similar poll conducted by The Lawyer in the week before the June 2017 election saw 37 per cent of respondents backing the Tories, compared to 35 per cent who said they would vote Labour. The Conservatives now just attract 15.8 per cent support while Labour is down to 10.7 per cent, behind the Liberal Democrats.
Some 52 per cent of Leave voters would vote Conservative at the next election, with 14 per cent saying they didn’t know where their vote would go and 10 per cent saying they wouldn’t cast a vote at all.
Among Remain voters The Independent Group’s vote share rises to 33 per cent, with 19 per cent don’t know, 18 per cent Liberal Democrat, 13 per cent Conservative and 10 per cent Labour.
The British Government and EU have agreed an extension to the Article 50 period until 12 April 2019, with a further extension until 22 May if the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement is approved by Parliament this week.