The advice from Europe’s voters to David Cameron could not be clearer: If you want popular support across the Channel for your renegotiation strategy, talk not about what’s good for Britain but what’s good for Europe
YouGov’s latest Eurotracker survey
questioned voters in France, Germany and Scandinavia, as well as Britain. Most non-Britons in our survey want Britain to remain in the EU (by big majorities in Germany and Scandinavia, more narrowly in France) – but few people want the EU to make ‘significant concessions’ to the UK.
When it comes to specifics, however, there is widespread support for some of Cameron’s objectives, especially if they are cast as reforms for all EU member states, rather than opt-outs for Britain.
Indeed, EU-wide changes to rules on migrants and welfare might improve the EU’s overall reputation. Pessimism about the institution as a whole is not confined to Britain. Of the countries we surveyed, only Denmark has more optimists (48%) than pessimists (37%). The country with by far the bleakest views is France, where pessimists outnumber optimists by five-to-two (65-26%). Britain (optimists 37%, pessimists 48%) is in the middle of the pack. In each case, fewer people in France, Germany and Scandinavia supported changes if they were cast as changes specifically for Britain.
One immediate source of uncertainty is, of course, Greece. Only minorities in the countries we surveyed want Greece to remain in the Eurozone, ranging from 24% (Denmark) to 36% (France). If Greece ends up restoring the drachma, there seems little danger of an immediate public backlash across the continent. But, as so often in politics, minds may change over the longer term as the consequences become clear. If things settle down, the crisis may soon fade; but if we start to see a financial domino effect, with other Eurozone countries coming under pressure, more emergency meetings being held, and more payments needed from richer Eurozone countries, then the mood may well darken.
We should also note that our Eurotracker does not yet include Eastern European countries such as Poland. Views are likely to vary, perhaps greatly, in such countries about both the Eurozone and the rules governing migration and welfare. But if Cameron, arguing for European reform rather than British exceptionalism, can win over Chancellor Markel, President Hollande and the Scandinavians – including the new centre-right government in Denmark – then he could have the political basis for negotiating the kind of deal he wants.