UK Election Countdown: An Increasingly Unpopular EU

Written by | Friday, March 27th, 2015

The EU has become more unpopular in the United Kingdom than it has been at any time in the last two decades, according to the annual British attitudes survey conducted by NatCen Social Research released yesterday (26 March). The report says that 63 percent of Britons are Eurosceptic, a term which refers to an attitude defined as wanting to leave, or reduce the powers of the EU. More than a third of those interviewed express their wish for the UK to leave the EU outright, which is the highest number since 1985. However, the silver lining to this gloomy picture is the fact that the majority of the public in the UK still want to stay in the EU.

At the same time, the survey also found that there is growing support for reducing the powers exercised by Brussels. This was obvious when those participating in the survey were presented with a range of options, rather than simply in or out – in this case, the percentage who wished to leave the EU dropped to 24 percent while the remaining 38 percent wanted to stay in the Union, but to see its powers reduced. Overall, the report suggests there hasn’t been a marked increase in levels of Euroscepticism since 2005. The last major change in public opinion was back in 1996 after the EU decided to ban exports of British beef over fears about BSE, or mad cow disease.

Meanwhile, with the general election campaign set to kick off six weeks before the vote on May 7, British Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition leader Ed Miliband have taken part in back-to-back live televised interviews. Ex-Newsnight host grilled the Conservative and Labor leaders on lack of voter enthusiasm for their campaigns, Scotland and spending plans. Cameron argued that “the problem with the European Union at the moment is that it’s got some good aspects, but too many things that drive people mad,” and added that “People see that it’s trying to become too much of a state rather than an organization, it’s trying to take too much power. Unlike Cameron who has pledged to hold a referendum on EU membership, Milliband wanted to stay in the bloc. “I think leaving the EU would be a disaster for our country,” said Miliband and then explained that “I think strategically for Britain, whether you want to tackle terrorism or climate change or a whole range of issues, you’ve got to be an outward-looking country.”

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