Brits’ voices not heard by EU, but they want closer integration on international issues


New polling (pdf) published today helps to explain the nature of Euroscepticism in the UK. It shows that while Brits do not feel that their voice counts in the European Union, there are some areas in which they believe that European countries should cooperate more closely and others where they should loosen links.

Constitutional quick fixes and greater political integration are largely rejected.

The polling (pdf), covered in a Guardian report of yesterday’s IPPR debate on the EU’s democratic deficit, which was carried out by YouGov-Cambridge shows that 75 per cent do not think that there voice counts in the European Union compared to 12 per cent who do. But clear majorities believe that Europe should cooperate more closely together on the following issues:

• Fighting terrorism and international crime (67 per cent to 11 per cent),

• tackling climate change (52 per cent to 20 per cent), and

• reducing poverty (51 per cent to 21 per cent)

On a range of other – primarily international – issues, including trade links with other countries (41 per cent to 26 per cent), the rise of Asia (42 per cent to 17 per cent), military action (39 per cent to 28 per cent), diplomatic relations with non-European countries (36 per cent to 28 per cent), recovering from the recession and financial crisis (41 per cent to 34 per cent), more people wanted closer cooperation than looser links.

But on a series of other issues, a majority or significant minority wanted looser links.

These include tax rates and national budgets (13 per cent to 57 per cent), crime and justice (30 per cent to 44 per cent), agriculture (23 per cent to 47 per cent), and deciding laws on trade unions and strikes (15 per cent to 54 per cent). Worryingly for those committed to the European social chapter, the list also includes rights for workers (30 per cent to 40 per cent).

The poll findings are broadly consistent with my IPPR briefing note last October on ‘Euroscepticism in the UK’ and marks the start of a new IPPR project which will rethink the progressive case for the European Union.

The project will look at how Britain can contribute to renewed economic competiveness and shared prosperity across Europe, rethinking the case for European cooperation on social issues, and considering how to improve the legitimacy of the EU.

On the latter it seems that quick constitutional fixes will not do the trick. Brits are implacably opposed to ideas like a democratically elected EU president (by 23 per cent support to 47 per cent opposing).

Forms of greater political integration are also rejected including a single European army (15 per cent to 57 per cent), a fully integrated United States of Europe (nine per cent to 68 per cent) or a single EU seat on the United Nations (11 per cent to 59 per cent).

But Brits do favour national referendums to decide any further EU integration (73 per cent to 12 per cent) and an automatic right to leave the EU, if a two-thirds majority of voting people from that country say they want to do so (68 per cent to eight per cent).

Similar questions were asked in France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Italy, with the results due to be published in the coming days. Full results of the British poll can be found here.

See also:

European Socialists call for more than talk on youth unemployment – will the blue bloc listen?Alex Hern, February 17th 2012

Osborne’s austerity obsession is betraying a generation of young peopleWilliam Bain MP, February 16th 2012

TUC warns EU – don’t undermine our employment rightsTony Burke, February 14th 2012

What are Clegg’s yellow lines?Alex Hern, December 9th 2011

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

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