It's not just the Brits: Euroscepticism on the rise all across Europe, major survey ahead of Brexit vote shows
Anti-Brussels sentiment has risen sharply all across Europe over the past year thanks to a toxic combination of economic stagnation and the mismanagement of the migrant crisis, a new Europe-wide opinion poll has shown.
The Pew Research Centre survey found that rising disenchantment with the EU is not confined to the UK, with Greece, France and Spain also having a majority with an unfavourable view of Europe.
“Euroscepticism is on the rise across Europe with about two-thirds of both the British and the Greeks, along with significant minorities in other key nations, wanting some powers returned from Brussels to national governments,” said the report.
The findings, based on surveys covering countries that account for 80 per cent of the EU population, will strengthen the arguments of Brexit campaigners that Brussels have been too slow reverse the federalist agenda of the 1990s.
In a sign that Europe’s publics increasingly want an end to the principle of ‘ever closer union’, more than twice as many people surveyed – some 42 per cent - said they wanted powers returned to their national parliaments than said they wanted powers transferred to Brussels.
“As the British head to the polls, just 6% of the public in the UK wants such an outcome. And only 8% of Greeks favour more power for the EU. The strongest backing for an ever closer Europe is only 34%, in France,” they added.
The report – based on interviews with 10,491 respondents from April 4-May 12 this year - blames rise in euroscepticism on the migrant crisis which saw more than one million migrants pouring into Europe in 2015.
“EU favorability is down in five of the six nations surveyed in both 2015 and 2016. There has been a double-digit drop in France (down 17 percentage points) and Spain (16 points), and single-digit declines in Germany (8 points), the United Kingdom (7 points) and Italy (6 points),” they wrote.
Despite the negative overall trend and their virulent anti-migrant stance, Poland (72 per cent) and Hungary (61 per cent) retained high levels of support for the EU which analysts say is widely seen as cash-cow for infrastructure and development projects as well as access to jobs in other EU countries.
On the other side of the scale, Greece - which has been hammered by EU austerity demands and a German-led refusal to offer significant debt-relief – the EU was viewed negatively by 71 per cent of people.
The figures also confirmed the continuing souring of French attitudes to Europe, with 61 per cent saying they had an unfavourable view of the EU – a number that will further boost Marine Le Pen’s eurosceptic National Front which is leading the polls ahead of next year’s presidential elections.
The survey found also that euroscepticism was evident on both the Left and Right-wing fringes of Europe’s increasingly fractured politics, with eurosceptics predominating on the Right in the UK, Italy, Netherlands and Holland, but on the Left in Sweden and Spain.
In one ray of future hope for the EU, although older voters were shown to have turned against Brussels in large numbers, a majority of younger voters aged 18-34 had a favourable view of Europe in every country surveyed, except Greece.
The survey did, however, come with a sting in the tail for pro-Brexit groups: while Europeans may be growing disenchanted with Brussels, there was overwhelming agreement – more than 70 per cent in half the countries - that a British vote to leave on June 23 would be bad for Europe as a whole.