British support for EU reaches highest level for 11 years

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The Independent Online

The regular Eurobarometer survey, conducted by polling organisations across the EU, now rates several countries as more Eurosceptic than Britain.

Asked whether membership of the EU is a good thing, 42 per cent of Britons agreed, a jump of eight points on the last poll in the autumn of 2005, the highest figure since 1995. In the spring of 2004, well under one-third of all those asked agreed with the statement and in 2000 the figure was down to one in four.

Asked whether the UK has benefited from membership, there was a more modest rise of five percentage points, again to 42 per cent. It was the highest figure since 1992, though those who believe Britain has not benefited from membership are still in a slight majority at 44 per cent. In the spring of 2004 only 30 per of people thought EU membership benefited Britain.

Officials believe the trend is the result of a lowering of the political temperature over Europe after the French and Dutch referendum "no" votes on the European constitution. The UK's presidency of the EU in the second half of last year may also have helped set a different agenda.

Reijo Kemppinen, head of the European Commission office in London, said: "The absence of institution confrontation from the headlines has allowed people to see a different Europe, one of co-operation on energy, the environment and climate change, something that people can relate to."

Across the EU, support for membership increased by five points to 55 per cent with Ireland the most enthusiastic at 77 per cent. The least keen were Finland (39 per cent), Latvia (37 per cent) and Austria (34 per cent).

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