Poll Reveals Widening Gap Between Britain And European Union

Poll Reveals Widening Gap Between Britain And European Union
European Union flags hang half mast in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels
European Union flags hang half mast in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

A survey of more than 5,000 voters in the UK, Germany, France and Poland finds that Britons are far more hostile to the European Union and its policies than those in the other EU states, and there is startlingly low support for British membership among people on the continent, reports the Guardian.

Meanwhile, the total numbers of people in France and Germany who back giving Britain a special deal on membership are heavily outnumbered by those who oppose doing so, which suggests that David Cameron may struggle to achieve his hoped-for plan for the UK.

The poll also discovers few British people choose to describe themselves as European. In other EU nations, enthusiasm for being European is far higher.

Just a quarter of British voters regard the EU as a "good thing" compared with 42% who say it is a "bad thing". In Poland 62% say it is a good thing and 13% bad; in Germany 55% good and 17% bad, and in France 36% good and 34% bad.

When queried about the UK's contribution to the EU, just 9% of Germans and 15% of French people think the UK is a positive influence, with more Poles, 33%, taking that view.

Only 16% of Germans and 26% of French people believe that a special deal being struck for the UK is acceptable. Cameron has said he intends to renegotiate the UK terms of entry and hold an in/out referendum if he wins a majority at the next election.

The idea of losing Britain from the EU does not appear to concern other nations. Just a quarter of of French voters said a UK exit would have a negative effect, compared with 36% of Germans and 51% of Poles.

Former Tory foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind said, "There needs to be a serious debate about the real benefits of – as well as the real problems about – British membership of the EU. Without it we could do serious damage to Britain's interests."

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg commented, "Everybody knows the EU needs reform. But simply carping from the sidelines and flirting with exit undermines British leadership in the EU, fails to deliver reform and leaves Britain increasingly isolated. The debate about Europe is no longer about who is for or against reform – everybody agrees on that – it is between those who believe we can lead in the EU and those who want to head for the exit.

"That's why next year's elections will be so important: the Liberal Democrats will be the leading party of 'in'. It's time we challenged Ukip and large swathes of the Conservative party who want to betray Britain's vital national interest by pulling us out of the world's largest borderless single market, on which millions of jobs depend."

Labour MP and former Europe minister Peter Hain urged pro-Europeans to stand up and fight: "This is a wake-up call for British pro-Europeans that Britain – especially if the Tories win the next election – is heading for an exit from the EU which would be an utter disaster for British jobs, prosperity and influence in the world. But it is equally a wake-up call for the Brussels Bubble, which is totally out of touch with Europe's citizens."

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: "This is a fascinating and comprehensive study into the relative relationships between countries within and about the EU. We, on these islands feel, due to our history as a globally trading nation, much more at home with our cousins in the Anglosphere than we do with our friends on the continent."

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