Support for the European Union (EU) is on the wane across Europe thanks principally to the migrant crisis, with the majority of Europeans wanting to see Brussels have less power, not more, according to a new poll.
Britons will be given the chance to issue their verdict on the European institutions in just over two weeks’ time when they go to the polls on 23 June. But the ballot has lead to much speculation that a British vote to leave could be the trigger for the ultimate collapse of the European Union, prompting other countries to clamour for the exit door.
New polling from the Pew Research Center suggests the prediction has good grounds for support, as it has revealed that the European Project of “ever closer union’” with the ultimate goal of creating a United States of Europe, has little support among the people of Europe.
They asked 10,491 people from ten member states for their views of the EU between late April and early May, and found that in not a single one of those ten countries was there overall support for ever closer union.
The people of Greece were most in favour of seeing powers returned to their national politicians, with 68 per cent of people choosing that option. By comparison, just eight per cent of Greeks wanted to see more powers handed over to Brussels, while 18 per cent favoured the status quo.
And the British people were also overwhelmingly in favour of seeing powers clawed back from Brussels: 65 per cent said they’d like to see more powers returned. As the poll was conducted after Prime Minister David Cameron’s renegotiation of British membership, which was designed to repatriate key powers ahead of the referendum, it appears as though the result is a damning verdict on the outcome of those talks.
Meanwhile a mere six per cent of Brits wanted to see more powers handed over to the European institutions, while 25 per cent thought the current balance was about right.
However, support for repatriation of powers doesn’t necessarily translate into support for leaving the EU. The Pew Research poll didn’t ask respondents whether they’d vote to leave the EU or not, but latest polling on the subject shows the country evenly split on the matter suggesting that a sizeable proportion believes either that the EU can be reformed and the role of the institutions reduced, or that people believe the price of an overbearing EU is worth paying for access to its markets.
The research does, however, ask people whether they have a favourable opinion of the EU or not, and found the result to be fairly evenly split with a slight inclination towards favourable opinions overall.
However, county by country data shows wide variation in opinion across the nations: while Poland had a pretty favourable view of the EU (72 per cent had a favourable opinion), Greece had a very poor opinion of the Union – just 27 per cent of Greeks look kindly upon the EU.
France also has a poor opinion of the EU, with 38 per cent expressing a favourable opinion of the bloc, despite being relatively evenly split on whether powers should be handed over to the Commission or wrestled back.
And again, despite the even split on the Brexit question, Brits had an overall unfavourable impression of the EU, with just 44 per cent giving a positive verdict on the Union.
However, favourability has dropped in every single country polled over the last decade or so. In France this drop has been quite dramatic, dropping 17 points in just one year, and a massive 31 points since 2004.
Spain, too, saw a double digit drop this year alone, of 16 points to reach 47 per cent favourable.
The reason for the sharp drop in support appears to lie with the EU’s handling of the ongoing migrant crisis which first swept across the continent last year.
Bruce Stokes, author of the report, said: “In every country surveyed, overwhelming majorities disapprove of how Brussels has dealt with the problem. This includes 94 per cent of Greeks, 88 per cent of Swedes and 77 per cent of Italians. The strongest approval of EU management of the refugee crisis is in the Netherlands, but that backing is a tepid 31 per cent.”