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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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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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