Four-country poll finds British voters more hostile to EU

Dec. 1, 2013 at 12:23 AM
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LONDON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- British voters are less likely to support their country's continued membership in the European Union than those in France, Germany and Poland, a poll indicates.

The British research company Opinium surveyed more than 5,000 people in the four countries, The Observer reported Saturday. Just over one quarter, 26 percent, in Britain said the EU is "a good thing," while 42 percent called it bad.

In Poland and Germany more than half of respondents, 62 percent and 55 percent, believe the EU is good, while 13 percent and 17 percent said it was bad. In France, 36 percent supported the EU and 34 percent opposed it.

The British House of Commons released a bill that would schedule a referendum on EU membership in 2017. Prime Minister David Cameron apparently hopes the possibility of British withdrawal will lead to new conditions for British membership.

Only 9 percent of German respondents and 15 percent of French said they perceive Britain as a positive force in the EU, along with 33 percent of Poles. In Germany only 16 percent favor giving Britain special inducements to stay in the EU, while 25 percent in France do.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who heads Cameron's coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, and Malcolm Rifkind, a Conservative who served as foreign secretary under Prime Minister John Major, are heading an effort to change the conversation on the EU in Britain.

"Everybody knows the EU needs reform. But simply carping from the sidelines and flirting with exit undermines British leadership in the EU, fails to deliver reform and leaves Britain increasingly isolated," Clegg said. "The debate about Europe is no longer about who is for or against reform -- everybody agrees on that -- it is between those who believe we can lead in the EU and those who want to head for the exit."

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