The majority of the British public want to see the Brexit transition period extended so the government can focus all of its time and resources on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll.
As it stands, the UK is due to fully withdraw from the EU by December 31 2020, with or without a final trade deal in place, and the British government has repeatedly insisted the deadline won't be extended.
Downing Street reiterated its position last week, saying departure from the EU would give the country the "legislative and economic flexibility" it needs to manage the current health crisis.
'No further distractions'
As far as public attitudes towards Brexit are concerned, the latest indications came from a Focaldata survey of more than 2,000 voters, which was commissioned by pro-EU group Best for Britain and anti-racism campaign body Hope not Hate.
According to the findings, two out of three Britons want the current transition period to be extended, to allow the government to "focus 100% of its energy on dealing with coronavirus for the rest of the year".
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of those who backed an extension said it should be "indefinite", while the rest said it should last for a year at most.
Just under half (49%) of Leave voters supported delaying the country's full withdrawal from the European Union, as did 48% of Conservative voters and 45% of Brexit Party supporters.
The survey came shortly after Downing Street repeated its insistence that there could be no extension to the Brexit transition deadline, even if Brussels officially requests one.
Naomi Smith, chief executive of Best for Britain, said it was "extremely worrying" to see the government adopt "such an extreme stance".
She added: "The views of small 'c' conservative voters in our data is telling. It's patronising to suggest they would punish the government at the ballot box for prioritising the country's health over an arbitrary exit date.
"They are compromising. It may not be their preference, but everyone can see that the government is overwhelmed by the task at hand and needs no further distractions."
'Not in the UK's interest to extend'
Downing Street said last week there is no need to lengthen the Brexit transition period, despite the impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on negotiations between the UK and the EU.
Boris Johnson's official spokesman said: "We will not ask to extend the transition. And, if the EU asks, we will say no. Extending the transition would simply prolong the negotiations, prolong business uncertainty and delay the moment of control of our borders."
David Frost, the UK's chief negotiator, tweeted that pushing back the December 31 deadline would also result in the country being bound to EU legislation "at a time when we need to control our own affairs".
"In short, it is not in the UK's interest to extend," he added.
This came after the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that Britain leaving the EU without a trade deal would risk adding to the "unprecedented uncertainty" already created by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Kristalina Georgieva told the BBC: "I really hope that all policymakers everywhere would be thinking about [reducing uncertainty]. It is tough as it is, let's not make it any tougher."
The IMF is predicting that 170 countries will see their income per capita shrink in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Georgieva warned that even this could turn out to be an overly optimistic projection.
So much economic uncertainty has caused havoc on the stock markets, with the FTSE 100 plummeting by more than 23% since mid-February.
London's blue chip index made a sluggish start to trading today (April 20), with an early rise quickly offset by a fall that left share prices down 0.6% towards the end of the morning session.