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EUROPEAN UNION

Public support in Europe for leaving EU collapses since Brexit, new survey shows

There has been a significant decline in support for leaving the European Union within its member states following the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote, according to a new survey by the European Social Survey.

Public support in Europe for leaving EU collapses since Brexit, new survey shows
Demonstrators hold placards and EU and Union flags as they take part in a march by the People's Vote organisation in central London on October 19, 2019. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP)

The survey that was carried out both in 2016-2017 and again between 2020-2022 shows that public support for leaving the European Union has waned.

In the study, first reported by the Irish Times, respondents were asked the hypothetical question: “Imagine there were a referendum in [your country] tomorrow about membership of the European Union. Would you vote for [your country] to remain a member of the European Union or to leave the European Union?”.

The new data shows that support in favour of leaving the EU dropped in every member state.

The breakdown revealed there was an 11.8 percentage point drop in Finland between the two surveys, whilst Slovenia saw a 10 percentage point drop, 8.8 in Austria, and 8.6 in Portugal. In the Netherlands the those in favour of an EU exit fell by 8.4 percentage points in the period, while in Italy it dropped by 8.3 percentage points and in France by 7.6.

Germany saw support for leaving the EU fall by 3.8 percentage points, in Sweden the potential leave vote fell by 5.2 percentage points and Spain saw a drop of 4.7 percentage points.

When it comes to those who would vote to remain in the EU, support has increased as might be expected given the fall in support for leave, but surprisingly not among all countries.

The share of respondents who would vote to remain in the EU rose by 14.8 percentage points in Finland, 11.2 in the Netherlands, 10.5 in Slovenia, 9.7 in Czechia, 8.2 in Hungary, 8.1 in Portugal, 7.5 in Italy, and 6.7 in France.

Despite most expressing a wish to remain in the EU, not every country saw a rise in support for voting to remain. In Germany, there was a drop of 5.1 percentage points for remain, 3.4 in Poland, 1.7 in Spain and 0.4 in Sweden. But in these countries respondents did not switch to backing leave but gave answers indicating they didn’t know which side they would vote for or that they just wouldn’t vote.

The survey’s results also reveal respondents’ growing attachment to the EU since 2016 in most member states. In France emotional connection to the EU rose from 44 percent to 48.8 percent and in Italy from 37.2 percent to 44.3 percent. In Hungary where the government has been in conflict with the EU, attachment grew from 60 percent to 70.3 percent.

The period covered by the survey coincides with the tortuous negotiations between the UK and Brussels over Brexit as well as a period of political and economic turmoil in the UK which has been partly blamed on Britain’s hard divorce from the EU. It also coincided with the Covid pandemic which saw EU countries working together over the vaccine roll out and travel regulations.

Eurosceptic parties such as Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally in France, as well as parties in Italy and the Netherlands have in recent years dropped calls for their countries to leave the EU or the single currency but instead advocated for the union to reform.

Member comments

  1. The Irish Times are so anti Uk that anything they say has no relevance.They should remember that even today many Irish can go to the UK and work without an issue.
    COVID ,Net zero,Immigration and Ukraine have put a spanner in the works on Brexit and to think otherwise is sheer blindness.
    The present government has failed also to implement any changes.
    People voted against the EU rather than for Brexit.
    The Local as always a mix of Left and Wokery.

  2. There is a real sense of European identidy that has come to the surface. The EU members gave been through a lot and the € is holding its own.

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FARMING

EU chief bows to protesting farmers over pesticide use

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday recommended the bloc bury a plan to cut pesticide use in agriculture as a concession to protesting European farmers.

EU chief bows to protesting farmers over pesticide use

The original proposal, put forward by her European Commission as part of the European Union’s green transition, “has become a symbol of polarisation,” she told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

Noting that the plan — to halve chemical pesticide use in the EU by the end of the decade — had also stalled in discussions in the parliament and in the European Council representing EU member countries, von der Leyen said she would ask her commission “to withdraw this proposal”.

The pesticide issue is just one of a long list of grievances that have prompted a mass protest movement by EU farmers, who in recent weeks have used tractors to block key roads to complain of shrinking income and rising production costs.

With far-right and anti-establishment parties — which are predicted to make significant gains in June’s European elections — latching onto the farmers’ movement, the environment debate has turned politically explosive.

Last week, 1,300 tractors clogged the area around an EU summit in Brussels, forcing their revolt to the top of the leaders’ agenda and resulting in a number of other concessions, especially in France.

Protests were continuing on Tuesday, including in the Netherlands — and with demonstrations called for outside the parliament in Strasbourg.

“Many of them feel pushed into a corner,” von der Leyen acknowledged, adding: “Our farmers deserve to be listened to.”

At the same time, though, she emphasised that European agriculture “needs to move to a more sustainable model of production” that was more environmentally friendly and less harmful to soil quality.

“Perhaps we have not made that case convincingly,” she said.

Building ‘trust’

To get there, von der Leyen said “trust” had to be built between farmers and policymakers, and she pointed to consultative dialogue Brussels has started with a broad range of representatives in the agri-food sector.

Von der Leyen said that, while she wanted to withdraw the proposed law on pesticides, “the topic stays” even if “a different approach is needed”.

She suggested that the commission could come up with a revised legislative proposal at a later date — an initiative that would likely fall to the next commission resulting from EU elections taking place in June.

Von der Leyen has not yet said whether she intends to seek a new mandate at the head of that commission.

Some European leaders welcomed the shelving of the pesticide legislation.

“Long live the farmers, whose tractors are forcing Europe to take back the madness imposed by the multinationals and the left,” said Italy’s far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.

He spoke as groups of Italian farmers rallied at the edges of Rome ahead of a planned move into the Italian capital as early as Thursday.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo hailed von der Leyen’s announcement, saying it was “crucial we keep our farmers on board to a more sustainable future of farming”.

The proposed pesticide concession follows another the commission unveiled last week, to give farmers wider exemptions on rules that required them to keep parcels of land fallow.

France has also moved to promise more cash to its farmers, ease rules imposed on them and protect them from what they see as unfair competition.

The pledges have been enough for two of the country’s main farmer unions to suspend protests.

But farmers in other EU countries including Italy, Spain and Greece say they will continue to mobilise. 

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