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Britain and the survival of the European project

03 May 2012
Britain and the survival of the European project

Against the backdrop of both the UK and eurozone economies being thrown back into recession, Policy Network President, Peter Mandelson, will give the annual University of Oxford Hands lecture on Britain and the survival of the European project.

Full speech:

Mandelson’s lecture will set out why Britain’s future role in Europe will require a fundamental reassessment if the Eurozone is salvaged and survives. Faced with a Europe in which membership of the single currency is likely to be become the difference between Europe’s core and its periphery Britain will face a difficult choice. Mandelson will argue that a Britain that rules out ever joining the euro may be ruling out a future at the heart of the EU.

The lecture will expand on the findings of a new Policy Network poll of public attitudes towards the EU and global interdependence. Carried out by Populus, it reveals the extent to which British people are wary of the logic of European integration.

Key findings include:

Overall, two-thirds (67%) of people support staying in the European Union. 36% of people think Britain should stay in the EU but only as a member of a free trade area, 18% as we currently are but with no further integration, and 14% of people say the UK should stay in the EU and play a full role in any further integration. A third think Britain should leave.

Just over half (56%) of the general public believe there should be a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. People over 35 are more likely to support this than younger people. In demographic terms, lower skilled (C2) and unskilled workers (DE) are also much more in favour of a referendum – 62% and 64% respectively – compared to 48% of white-collar workers (AB).

68% would be more supportive of Britain integrating further if they thought it would help the UK economy and 57% would be more supportive of EU if Britain was guaranteed interdependence in key policy areas such as taxation.

• People want a more protective EU, hence there is strong support for cooperative action on crime and terrorism (71%), illegal immigration (59%), and a majority of Britons (52%) think it would be best to use the EU in co-operating and sharing defence resources in order to reduce costs and co-ordinate military action. By contrast, less than half believe it is best to use the EU to negotiate trade agreements with emerging economies (41%) or to set climate change targets (47%).

There is a great level of concern about the influence of the UK in Europe, which is one of the key conditions people have for giving more support to the EU. But almost half (49%) of Britons believe that staying out of the euro does not limit Britain’s influence in Europe, and 44% think that though it does limit Britain’s influence the benefits of staying out outweigh the costs. Only 7% of people think that the costs of staying out of the Euro outweigh the benefits. 80% of people say that Britain should never join the Euro. Those aged over 45 are slightly more likely to believe the UK should never join.

   British EU membership in an age of insecurity
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  The worrying inevitability of EU intergovernmentalism
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By Olaf Cramme

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