Majority of Europeans believe Brexit will harm the EU, poll reveals

Attitudes to the EU itself vary across the continent

Will Worley
Friday 01 July 2016 16:41
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Most people in Europe thought Britain leaving the EU would damage the project
Most people in Europe thought Britain leaving the EU would damage the project

The vast majority of Europeans believe the UK leaving the EU would be a 'bad thing', a survey has shown.

This is despite signs of significant antipathy towards the European project. Across the continent, 51 per cent of people looked at the EU favourably and 42 per cent of people wanted more power nationally.

Just 19 per cent favoured giving Brussels more power. Also, reflecting divisions highlighted by the referendum in the UK, younger people were more likely to support Europe.

But people of all ages and political stripes in countries across Europe thought Brexit would harm the EU, according to the Pew poll published prior to the referendum in June.

In terms people's opinion of the value of Britain's place in the EU, the only country with more than a quarter of respondents who thought Brexit would do no harm was France.

A total of 62 per cent of respondents believed it would be a good thing for the UK to remain in the bloc.

Supporters of the mainstream parties were generally united in their pro-Remain stance and even supporters of the far right Front National party were divided on the topic.

But attitudes towards the value of Britain’s place in the EU were overwhelmingly favourable throughout the rest of the continent.

Only eight per cent of Swedes said Brexit would be a good thing for Europe, whereas 89 per cent of people - the largest majority - thought the UK should stay.

The second highest majority was displayed by the Dutch, with 75 per cent of people who thought Brexit would negatively impact the EU and just 17 per cent who thought it would be a good thing.

Seventy four per cent of Germans thought it would be bad for Britain to leave the EU, with just 16 per cent who didn’t.

However, it was not just the richer countries which felt this way. In Hungary, only 10 per cent felt the UK’s departure would not harm the EU and 70 per cent of people thought it would.

There was a similar level of feeling present in Poland, with just 11 per cent of respondents who believed Europe was better off without Britain.

Both countries had the most people who thought highly of the EU as an institution, with 71 per cent of Polish and 61 per cent of Hungarians voicing their support for it.

The numbers altered slightly in the Mediterranean countries, but attitudes remained broadly similar. In Greece - a country which has suffered as a result of Brussels-imposed austerity policies - 65 per cent of people thought the UK’s presence in the EU was a good thing, compared to just 14 per cent of people who did not.

Italy, which has struggled with high unemployment, showed the second highest level of antipathy, and twenty three per cent of people said Brexit wouldn’t harm the EU. The country also displayed the least favourable opinion towards the presence of Britain in the EU – only 57 per cent believed the UK was a ‘good thing’ for Europe.

But in Spain, another country which has problems with the economy and unemployment, 70 per cent of people believed Brexit would be a bad thing for the EU, and just 16 per cent said it would be a good thing.

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