The majority of French people would like to see Britain ejected from the EU rather than see London’s demands for renegotiation met by Brussels, a new poll has found. The opinion is unique amongst the countries polled, as even the Brits questioned significantly preferred renegotiation to a “Brexit”.
The polling was undertaken by think tank The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), as part of a wide-ranging annual report on global trends, The Local has reported. For the first time it included a question on whether the EU should accommodate London’s demands for reform or risk Britain pulling out of the Union. The question was prompted by British Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans to push for renegotiation ahead of a referendum on British membership of the EU in 2017.
Citizens of eleven countries, including France, Britain, Germany, Italy and Poland were quizzed, but only the French favoured Britain leaving: 42 percent thought that London’s demands should be met, whereas 52 percent thought Britain should instead leave the EU. The Dutch were also fairly ambivalent, with just 45 percent saying Britain should be able to renegotiate, but fewer, 40 percent, thought that a British exit was preferable.
In a result that will worry strong proponents of a UK exit, the British respondents were the most in favour of renegotiation, with 57 percent saying that Brussels should negotiate with London. Just 35 percent of Brits were in favour of Britain leaving the EU outright.
Earlier this year, former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, who served under François Mitterand, called for Britain to leave the Union saying that Britain was the cause of all of the EU’s problems. “Britain is a great country that has always refused to allow Europe to interfere in its affairs. It has blocked any further integration,” he told Trombinoscope, a French parliamentary magazine.
“If they go, it becomes possible to respond to the needs of governing in Europe. Even Germany realises this and demands it. I hope for it a lot because they have prevented it from developing, they killed it.”
He went on to tell the magazine that it was clear that the British people had had enough of the EU, but that it was clear that they were being prevented from leaving by an elite political and financial class.
The French government has previously made it clear that it is in favour of Britain staying within the EU – but not at any cost, suggesting that Cameron will find it difficult to secure French support for all but the most insignificant of alterations to the Union.
Speaking in early 2013, the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told JDD: “If you give in to the demands of the British Conservatives, the ball of wool will unravel, Europe will fray. We will not resolve our problems by having a self-service or à la carte Europe. On the contrary.”
The GMF poll also asked whether people thought membership of the EU had been beneficial for their country, and for the first time attempted to unravel people’s reasons for supporting or opposing EU membership, by asking: “Why is membership of the EU a good / bad thing?”
The Germans were most supportive of EU membership, with 76 percent believing it to be beneficial, against just 21 percent who did not agree. The Brits were the most sceptical, but the majority of Brits still thought that on balance membership was a good thing: 51 percent thought that membership had been beneficial, against 40 percent who thought that it had not. None of the countries surveyed showed a majority for people believing that EU membership had not been beneficial.
And when asked why, the majority said that the EU was a good thing because it was “a community of democracies that should work together”. Across the eleven countries 31 percent agreed with that statement, with those in Italy agreeing most strongly. Twenty-seven percent said that free movement was the main advantage, whilst 19 percent believed that the EU had brought peace to the continent.
However, 45 percent of respondents thought that the EU had harmed their country’s economy, and 23 percent thought that the EU institutions had too much authority.