Paper summary: Britain and Europe
Are we all Eurosceptics now?
The rise of United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) during this parliament has seen the
Conservatives promise a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU if the party wins the 2015 election. This paper examines trends in attitudes towards Britain’s relationship with the EU since British Social Attitudes started in 1983, and assesses whether Britain really is more Eurosceptic now than ever before.
Although not at record levels, Euroscepticism has been widespread in recent years.
- Faced with the simple choice between staying or withdrawing, 35% now say they want Britain to withdraw from the EU.
- When presented with a wider range of options, voters’ most popular choice, backed by 38%, is to stay in the EU but to try and reduce its powers.
- Even 43% of those who feel European now say they want the EU’s powers reduced.
Not everything European is unpopular
EU rules that give rights and protections to British workers are relatively popular.
- Sixty nine per cent feel it is ‘very’ or ‘quite’ important that people in Britain are free to get jobs in other European countries.
- The proportion who oppose giving British workers the same protection as other EU workers against working long hours has fallen from 46% in 1997 to 38% now.
Opposition to membership of the EU is particularly high among those who are concerned about immigration.
- Around half of those who think immigration is bad for the economy want to leave the EU
compared with around one in ten of those who think it has been good for Britain’s economic fortunes.
- Support for leaving the EU varied similarly between those who think immigration undermines vs. enriches Britain’s cultural life.
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