A European nation

If opinion in Britain is steadily warming towards the EU, many assumptions driving politics will have to change

 

Share

The assumption is widespread today that Britons are naturally Eurosceptic – that history and geography have given us a completely different perspective on Europe from that of our neighbours on the Continent.

With the exception of the Liberal Democrats, most politicians act as if it is obvious that few votes are to be had in sounding pro-European and that the trick is either to sound witheringly contemptuous of the EU or just avoid talking about it.

But are they barking up the wrong tree? A new survey – which will have diehard Eurosceptics choking on their breakfast – shows not only that most Britons support the European project but also that we are now more pro-European than a number of countries that were once rock solid on the subject.

The Pew Research Centre’s findings show that 54 per cent of Britons “look favourably” on the European project, well up from only 45 per cent back in 2012. Of the seven nations surveyed, this puts us ahead of the Spaniards, Italians and Greeks and roughly abreast with the French. Only the Germans and Poles are markedly more pro-European than we are.

The figures are also startling because they suggest that while Britons have become more pro-European since 2012, the other countries in the survey, except for Poland, are travelling in the opposite direction. As our love for Europe waxes, theirs wanes and, if the trend continues, Britain will be much more pro-European than most EU member states in a few years’ time – again, with the exception of Poland and Germany.

The results will not necessarily have the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, hurriedly rewriting his manifesto for the forthcoming European parliamentary elections. Even if more than half of the UK population are broadly pro-European, just under half are not, so a large pool of anti-European votes exists for a flamboyantly Eurosceptic party to fish in.

Moreover, it may be that Eurosceptics feel more passionate about their cause than Europhiles do about theirs, in which case the former will still trump the latter in elections. Nevertheless, the mere fact that pro-Europeans form a silent majority in modern Britain will come as a revelation to many, shattering many a hoary myth about what makes this country tick.

With a general election looming next year, the implications are potentially significant for all the parties. For the Liberal Democrats, there is consolation. They may be slaughtered in the European elections this month, but the Pew Centre’s findings vindicate Nick Clegg in his refusal to apologise for his party’s pro-European values.

David Cameron’s advisers might also draw some comfort from the survey, as it suggests that his strategy of seeking a looser arrangement with Brussels while keeping Britain in the club matches many people’s approximate standpoint.

This is indicated by other results in the same survey, which show that a broadly pro-European sentiment in Britain does not translate into confidence in Europe’s main institutions. The lesson for all the big parties is that while Euroscepticism is a force to be reckoned with, it is also in retreat – in which case getting into a bidding war with Ukip over who can sound more Europhobic is a fool’s errand.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower