Although the anti-EU UK Independence Party (Ukip) is tipped to come out top in this week’s European elections, two new opinion polls suggest support for Britain’s membership of the European Union has actually risen.
A Europe-wide survey by the US-based Pew Research Centre found that if a referendum was held today, Britons would vote by 50 percent to 41 percent to remain in the EU, with 9 percent undecided.
Another poll by Ipsos MORI put the margin even higher, finding that 54 percent of British people would vote to remain in the European Union, with only 37 percent opting to leave.
Both surveys represent a significant shift in opinion towards staying in the EU, compared to previous polls.
Ahead of this week’s elections, the mainstream parties are struggling to respond to Ukip’s lead in the polls – and traditional voter apathy which has seen turnout fall in each European ballot.
Ukip has been forced into a damage limitation exercise over comments by its leader about Romanian immigrants.
The party has denied it is racist, but Nigel Farage says he regrets his choice of words after saying people were right to be concerned if a group of Romanians moved in next door.
He may draw encouragement however from a study suggesting that the divide between European institutions and the British people is wider than ever.
A survey by the UK-based Electoral Reform Society (ERS) published at the end of April suggested that three quarters of British voters felt their voices did not count in the EU.
ERS Chief Executive, Katie Ghose said the disconnect was not a new phenomenon but the gap was getting wider, and she urged political parties to take the lead on reducing the EU’s democratic deficit.
“95 percent of British voters do not know who their MEP is, which is pretty shocking and is another example of the divide there is between British voters in European affairs. There is something very simple we could do, which is to change the voting system. None of the parties or voters much like the current system that we’ve got. We’d like to move towards a better, fairer proportional system where voters had a much better choice of candidates, and could feel like they had more of a say,” she said.
Britain’s Prime Minister – under pressure from eurosceptics in Ukip and his own Conservative Party – has been criticised by a close ally of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
David Cameron has been accused by Gunther Krichbaum, head of the German government’s committee on EU affairs, of a “desperate attempt to appease Ukip” in proposing to extricate the UK from the EU’s commitment to “ever closer union”.
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