Britons' growing support for Twelve cheers policymakers: European opinion poll reveals pattern of mixed backing for integration

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN has shown a marked upsurge in support for the European Community for the first time in two years, according to the latest EC opinion poll. It is one of the few bright spots for EC policymakers in a survey that shows falling support for Europe and weak backing for the Maastricht treaty.

Britain, though still the most opposed among the Twelve to European integration, has shown a five per centage point increase since last autumn, according to Eurobarometer. Its spring survey shows that those who are for efforts to unify Western Europe have risen from 57 to 62 per cent of the British population. There has also been a five per cent increase in those who believe EC membership to be a good thing, to 48 per cent, and a 6 per cent increase in those who believe Britain has benefitted from being an EC member, to 37 per cent.

Britain remains the most anti-EC nation, and is the only one where opinion is against the Maastricht treaty - 35 per cent against 29 per cent. But even here the gap has narrowed, with the last survey showing 43 per cent against, 26 per cent for and 31 per cent undecided.

Support for the treaty has declined in eight of the EC countries, including Germany and Italy. Overall, 41 per cent of Europe's population support Maastricht, 24 per cent are opposed and 35 per cent do not know, according to Eurobarometer.

Sentiment in favour of integration has been falling throughout Europe since spring 1991. Thirty-eight per cent of the EC would be indifferent if Maastricht were scrapped, according to the survey (the figure for Britain is 45 per cent).

Roughly three-quarters of Europe's citizens favour closer integration, but less than half support the treaty. Only Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark showed a majority for it.

Particularly disturbing for EC policymakers in Brussels is that 60 per cent of Germans are opposed to the project of a single currency, at the heart of the Maastricht treaty, and only 29 per cent are in favour.

The German mark would be the pivotal currency in any new monetary arrangement. However, in France, the other key country, the situation is reversed - 58 per cent favour a single currency and 32 per cent are opposed. The survey shows overwhelming support for a common defence policy in Europe, by 77 per cent to 15 per cent, with virtually identical figures in Britain. There is also a majority for military intervention in Yugoslavia.

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