Public support for Cameron’s EU walkout already unravelling

While the headline post-EU summit poll findings support the prime minister, there are already signs that the public is wary of what has happened.

Chart 1: Was the EU summit good or bad for Britain?


Backbench Conservative MPs drew attention yesterday to what they saw as broad public support for David Cameron’s actions in Brussels in the early hours of Friday morning. But while the headline findings support the prime minister, there are already signs that the public is wary of what has happened.

A new YouGov poll for The Sun this morning reinforces yesterday’s Times poll on the public’s broad reaction to Britain walking away from the Franco-German treaty revisions. Although a veto was not technically used, by almost three-to-one (58%-21%), voters think Cameron was right when asked ‘Do you think David Cameron was right or wrong to veto the treaty?’.

Yesterday’s Populus poll for The Times (£) found support at 57%-14% while a Survation poll in the Mail on Sunday found support at 62%-19%.

But more in depth questions by YouGov (pdf) show that the public do not think that the outcome will be a happy one for Britain.

As the charts below show, just 24 per cent think the outcome will be good for Britain (31 per cent say ‘bad’) while a meagre 15 per cent think the summit will be ‘good for the British economy over the next few years’ while 34 per cent think it will be bad:

The latest poll also finds the narrowest support for British withdrawal from the EU in months. Only 43 per cent now want Britain to leave while 36 per cent think Britain should remain a member. As recently as August, 52% said they would vote to leave, while 30% would remain a member.

In a recent IPPR report on ‘Euroscepticism in Britain’ (pdf) I explained the nuances of British public opinion on the European Union with voters deeply hostile to the institution but enthusiastic about closer working on a range of issues including counter-terrorism, climate change, and security policy.

In his commentary on the poll, YouGov President Pete Kellner discusses the long term implications:

What will people think when the dust settles? At the moment, voters are reacting to the dramas of the past week. In a year or two’s time they will be reacting to the consequences of Cameron’s actions.

If Britain’s economy does better than those in the eurozone, and some kind of calm, however awkward, returns to our relations with the rest of the EU, then the prime minister’s stance will have been vindicated, and his party is likely to be rewarded with extra votes and seats at the next election.

If, however, our economy stumbles and enough voters blame at least part of this on Cameron’s veto, then the Tories could well suffer.

Tory backbenchers would be wise to avoid being too triumphalistic about their leaders’ diplomatic moves.

See also:

What exactly did Cameron get from the EU summit?Shamik Das, December 13th 2011

Cameron turns Britain from an outlier into an irrelevanceJames Denselow, December 12th 2011

How Cameron traded influence for isolationBen Fox, December 12th 2011

Look Left – Europe 26-1 Cameron: Britain isolated like never beforeShamik Das, December 9th 2011

The view from abroad: The day Britain locked itself outAlex Hern, December 9th 2011

  • Passing Leftie

    Your interpretation is wrong. The two questions relate to the outcome of the summit – meaning what the Eurozone decided, not what Cameron did. I can’t imagine the there would have been much difference in the answers if Cameron had signed up. Much as I think people misunderstand how fantatisically badly Cameron negotiated, it’s clear that people approve of his negotiation, and approve of the veto. I think this will change, but this article is not supported by the data, which is your entire raison d’etre.

  • Simple mistakes…

    The polls are asking different questions. Schoolboy error.

  • Selohesra

    Left are engaging in wishful thinking having found themselves on wrong side of public opinion on this. Result go to the oh so independent Mr Kellner (married to Baroness Ashton – Lab politician) to try and spin a favourable or at least less adverse poll

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  • Fact-Checker

    Rather ironic for an “evidence-based blog” isn’t it? Though not entirely surprising.

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  • Anonymous

    Just because the public think that the outcome is bad for the economy doesn’t mean that Cameron took the wrong position. The point is surely that we couldn’t get the outcome we wanted and this was made very clear by Merkozy at the outset. A good outcome would have been securing some safeguards for our financial services industry, and the outcome without the veto would have been even worse. The Common Agricultural Policy which has done nothing to help our farmers and everything to help the French shows that our request was not unreasonable.

  • Anonymous

    The outcome is bad for Britain because there was nothing in the summit which will resolve the euro problem. Cameron got nothing from the EU and we are still in exactly the same position. This accord or treaty will not make any difference and how are these countries going to enforce the sort of strict fiscal discipline that Merkel wants without growth. The new Italian prime minister is already having problems enforcing austerity and Greece will not meet its targets. Many of these countries have big bond auctions next year which does not bode well.

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  • Ed’s Talking Balls

    Fair minded comment – dispassionate and well-reasoned, therefore in stark contrast to the article itself.

    Of course I disagree strongly with your view that Cameron’s negotiating style was fantastically bad and I also disagree that public support for his stance will wane. But this is a matter of opinion and I respect yours fully.

    A classic case of “time will tell”, although, in truth, I don’t think Cameron signing up would have saved the eurozone and therefore our economy. I think he played an impossible hand as well as he could.

  • Ed’s Talking Balls

    This reminds me so much of the AV referendum.

    It was hilarious then to watch myriad “progressives” trying to explain how the majority of people didn’t actually mean to vote “no”, rather they simply had the wool pulled over their eyes/were intimidated by the gun Paul Dacre pointing at each and every one of them in the polling booths/were simply too stupid to understand the issues.

    It’s just as funny now to hear/read the pathetic bleatings of the likes of Will Hutton and Paddy Ashdown. Honestly, you would think that such ardent Europhiles would have the good sense to shut up having been so spectacularly wrong on Euro membership comparatively recently.

  • Ed’s Talking Balls

    Didn’t you get the diktat from Barroso et al?

    You’re not allowed to mention the monstrous CAP. Permissible topics of conversation include removal of the British rebate in retribution for having failed to cave in to Merkozy and the relocation of all financial hubs to Frankfurt or, possibly, Paris. Please stick to the script.

  • Mr. Sensible

    I think a lot of the support for withdrawal is by the media misleading people as to how the EU works.

  • Selohesra

    “Media misleading” – I think you will find the disgraceful pro Europe (pro Labour, anti cuts, pro agw ‘science’etc) bias of the BBC touches far more and does more damage to the understanding of the argument than a few newspapers that virtually no one reads anymore

  • Mombasa69

    What a load of old pro EU bollox!

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