LONDON (Reuters) - British voters want to maintain free trade with the European Union after Brexit but also want to limit immigration from countries in the bloc, according to a survey on Wednesday.
In the United Kingdom’s June 23 referendum, a total of 17.4 million people, or 51.9 percent, voted to leave the EU while 16.1 million, or 48.1 percent, voted to remain.
The survey, which reflected the demographic profile of the British population and the referendum divide, is based on research conducted by independent social research institute NatCen during September and October via the internet and by phone with a panel of 1,391 people.
“There is nearly universal support for maintaining free trade between the UK and the EU,” John Curtice, a senior research fellow at NatCen and professor of politics at Strathclyde University, wrote of the survey.
“On the other, around seven in 10 voters believe that the UK should be able to limit immigration from the EU, while a similar proportion believe there should be customs checks at the border with an EU country,” Curtice said.
The survey also found a majority of Leave voters backed free trade, financial passporting and following EU manufacturing regulations, while a majority of Remain voters supported limiting immigration and introducing customs.
Prime Minister Theresa May, who quietly argued to remain in the EU ahead of the vote, has argued that she must implement the wishes of the British people and control immigration while preserving as much access as possible to EU markets.
But EU leaders have repeatedly said that access to the EU’s single market is contingent on free movement of people.
If May is forced to make a choice, the survey has a difficult fact for business: Of those who say they would vote for her ruling Conservative Party at the next election, 60 percent are against allowing freedom of movement in return for free trade.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Stephen Addison