Brits as sceptical about EU as we’ve ever been, new poll shows


In an opinion poll that will be seen as another boost to the campaign for Britain to quit the EU, nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of voters were found to be ‘Eurosceptic’. 

And nearly half of adults believe the EU is a threat to British identity.

Yet voters still need to be persuaded of the economic case for Britain quitting the EU, the survey showed.

The British Social Attitudes survey found more dislike of the European bloc than at any time since the Maastricht Treaty that turned the European Community into the EU was signed in 1992. 

The research, by NatCen Social Research, will give hope to the campaign for Britain to quit the EU in the June 23 referendum. 

But it also showed the challenge faced by Leave campaigners by suggesting the Remain camp begins the debate with a significant poll lead. 

Voters will need to be persuaded that Britain would be economically better off outside the EU, the researchers concluded. 

The survey found 22 per cent of adults want the UK to leave the EU while a further 43 per cent want Brussels’ power reduced. 

The two groups were collectively described as Eurosceptic by the researchers.

The figures were the highest since 1992. 

Even in Scotland, often more pro-EU than the rest of Britain, Eurosceptics were in the majority. 

Forty-three per cent of Scottish voters want the EU’s powers cut and 17 per cent want to leave, more than at any time since 1999.

A majority of voters across the UK want radical changes in Britain’s relationship with Brussels. 

Two thirds (68 per cent) favour reducing EU migrants’ access to welfare benefits.

A majority (60 per cent) also support reducing EU regulation on business. 

Almost as many (59 per cent) want to stop migrants from other EU countries accessing the NHS for free. 

And just over half (51 per cent) want to end the free movement of people within the EU. 

The survey also found widespread concern about the cultural impact of EU membership.

Nearly half (47 per cent) agree that membership is ‘undermining Britain’s distinctive identity’ while just three in 10 (30 per cent) disagreed. 

Yet when given a straight in or out choice, 60 per cent want the UK to stay in the EU while 30 per cent want us to leave. 

Researchers concluded that hostility and suspicion towards Brussels did not automatically translate into a referendum Out vote. 

They argued the results showed that winning the argument about the future of the economy could be crucial to the referendum outcome. 

Only 24 per cent of voters believe that Britain’s economy would be better off if Britain left the EU while 40 per cent felt it would be worse.

Only two in five (40 per cent) of those who believe the EU is undermining Britain’s identity, but are not convinced that the economy would be better, wish to leave. 

But that is at least double (82 per cent) for those whose cultural concern is married with a belief in the economic benefits of withdrawal. 

Professor John Curtice, senior research fellow at NatCen Social Research and one of the country’s most respected polling experts, said: “Britain is as sceptical about Europe as it has ever been, feelings that seem to be largely driven by concerns about the impact the EU is having on the nation’s identity and cultural life, not least as a result of high levels of EU immigration. 

“However, for most people on its own this scepticism is not enough to warrant leaving the EU. 

“The Leave campaign evidently needs to persuade more voters of its economic arguments, while Remain has to assure voters that the economic advantages of membership are worth putting up with interference from Brussels.”