Richard North, 13/05/2014  

000a exit-013 poll.jpg

Picking up on the Eurobarometer poll again, it is interesting to see the EU-wide question being asked on whether individual countries "could better face the future outside the EU" see chart above - click to enlarge).

With the question being asked in January, it comes as no surprise to see the UK recording 47 percent agreeing with that proposition, as opposed to 41 percent disagreeing. And that is against the EU average of 32 percent agreeing and 58 percent disagreeing. In other words, we are way out ahead of the EU average in believing we'd be better off out.

But what is fascinating here is that, apart from Cyprus, we are on our own. With Cyprus, which has 51 percent preferring out, to 43 in, we comprise just two of the 28 EU member states who can turn in a majority against the EU.

Even when it comes to countries which have a strong eurosceptic tradition, we see a majority favouring the EU. For instance, Denmark has a mere 24 percent agreeing that they would be better off out of the EU, as against 73 preferring to be in.

Germany, on the other hand, has 26 percent agreeing they'd be better off out of the EU, with 73 in, while France has 30 and 60 and Italy delivers 38 and 46 respectively. Surprisingly, the Netherlands, with Gert Wilders keeping the eurosceptic fires burning, only has 21 percent who would agree to being better off out, as opposed to 73 percent who would prefer to be in.

Against this, we can also get a more nuanced view from other questions. When respondents are asked whether decisions should be taken at EU level, 24 percent of the British agree, with 66 percent disagreeing. EU-wide sentiment, though, is evenly balanced, with 45 percent agreeing that the EU should take a greater role, while 46 percent disagree.

Here, Poland and Spain yield the highest support for EU decision-making, while Denmark is only able to field 21 percent agreeing to more, with 73 percent against. France has 51 percent supporting more decision-making as opposed to 39 percent against.

Whether in favour of the EU or now, though, not a single country wants to see "Europe" break up. Asked whether we need a united Europe in today's world, the EU-wide average is 75 percent in favour of unity, as opposed to 19 against. Even the UK delivers 60 percent in favour, and 32 percent against. Interestingly, when that question was asked in May 1975, 60 percent favoured unity - exactly the same as 40 years later, but with 22 percent against.

In the current poll, though, when confronted with a more loaded question, the respondents give markedly different answers. Thus, to the question of whether a United States of Europe is a "good idea", 63 percent of Brits decide that this is a bad idea, compared with 24 percent who favour it.

Here, though, even the EU-wide average is 40 percent against, as opposed to 34 percent for. On this, we are not alone.

This makes an interesting contrast with 1975. When respondents in the nine EEC countries were asked whether it "will be necessary for all the citizens of the member countries to elect a single Parliament and for this to evolve quickly into a true European Government", only 29 percent supported the idea. The UK, however, only managed ten percent.

Gradually, it would seem, we are being conditioned to the idea of a single European government, although we are a long was from getting there. On the other hand, there is absolutely no evidence of a significant (or any) EU-wide eurosceptic movement. Apart from Cyprus, for very obvious reasons, the UK is very much alone in its opposition to the EU.


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