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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Where are the real fault lines in the EU?

Ipsos Mori has this week published an interesting poll on public attitudes* in ten EU member states. Across the ten countries as a whole relatively few people want to leave the EU outright (18% on average), but the single most popular option is staying in the EU but reducing its powers (34%).

Just over a third want to see either the EU’s powers strengthened further (19%), or even a long-term policy of working towards a single European government (18%) - click to enlarge the charts.

Broken down by country, the British (68%), along with the Swedes and Dutch (69% and 68% respectively) are most in favour of leaving or reducing the EU’s powers:

The research suggests that, on average, two in three (68%) think things across the EU are moving in the wrong direction. People from the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Britain are in line with the average, but those in the Mediterranean countries are the most pessimistic.

France, is the most pessimistic of the countries polled, whch seems to have a lot to do with the state of the country's economy. People in France, Italy and Spain are all particularly negative about the EU’s impact on the economy (74%, 74%, and 68% respectively are critical), and many feel that their economy has been damaged by the demands of austerity (75%, 70%, and 75% respectively).

The UK political debate on Europe may be a few years ahead of many other countries (perhaps with the exception of the Netherlands), but at the level of the individual, there are many people disenchanted with the European project. Many countries are deeply split but, on average, there is clearly an appetitie for the EU to do less. Most interesting though is the striking fault line in the eurozone. Francois Hollande has had precious little influence on EU policy since his election as president, but the question is, how long before the French public's disenchantment is reperesented by its politicians?

If you think the UK is the awkward partner, imagine if French politicians actually started telling Chancellor Merkel what their people think about Europe.

* It should be noted that the poll is not representative of the entire electorate in Belgium, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden (where 16-64 year olds were interviewed), while the Dutch panel is representative of voters. Why they chose not to poll people over 65 is unclear and in our view is likely to skew the results somewhat (in different directions for different countries).


Anonymous said...

So basically 53% are not happy with the way the eussr is being run and where it is going then, only 37% think it needs to go further in the ever closer union idea.

Freedom Lover said...

So let's close it all down then!

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's abolish the EUSSR! And let's also do a similar opinion poll for the UKSSR, no doubt we have the same results!

Patrick Barron said...

Read chapter 6 of Roger Scruton's new book "The Uses of Pessimism". He exposes the REAL fault lines in the EU.

Denis Cooper said...

"The research suggests that, on average, two in three (68%) think things across the EU are moving in the wrong direction."

I'm not much interested in that.

We should beware of insidious attempts to persuade us to forget that despite its pretensions the EU is legally still no more than an international organisation established by treaty between its sovereign member states, and therefore its affairs should always be conducted by diplomacy not by some pretence of democracy involving transnational majority voting; for me it would count for very little whether 10% of people in other EU countries thought that things across the EU were moving in the wrong direction or 90% of them thought that; what really matters for me is what people in my country think about it.

In any case I don't suppose those people in foreign countries all agree exactly how the EU is going wrong, any more than we do.

Denis Cooper said...

The EU treaties prescribe a process of "ever closer union".

In Great Britain only 5% of the population want the government to pursue that by working for the formation a single European government while another 8% want it to try to increase the powers of the EU but not to that extent; that adds up to just 13% who want to see any more power transferred to the EU, slightly higher than the 10% which often comes up in such opinion polls.

On the other hand, 86% of Britons now do not want to see any more power lost to the EU; 68% either want powers back or they want to get out of it altogether; and as the process of "ever closer union" prescribed by the treaties continues its relentless course presumably each of the 8% who now say they want some more power to be transferred to the EU will reach the point where they think that it has gone far enough.

So basically our politicians have got us into a treaty based on a principle which is supported by just 5% of the electorate, a tiny minority of fanatical extremists whose disaffection with their own country is so great that they want to see it wound up as a sovereign independent state and instead legally subordinated in a pan-European federation.

Jim Kemeny said...

It is heartening to see the high number of dissidents in Sweden. I always thought this would be the case, as its my home country.

I have started a new word press blog called "EU: the ramshackle empire". I am not surprised that it has had a large number of visits. The tipping point was the way the EU has tried to take over Ukraine. Open Europe could perhaps develop an own position on the kind of practical reforms needed to make the EU open.

My view on this is that as more diverse and different member states become the more sclerotic EU decision-making becomes. Its a bit like Fritz Scharpf's concept of the Joint Decision Trap (see the wikipedia item on this). My view is that the EU should revert to being a trade association a bit like EFTA and forget all the meddling in politics, Federal Europe and the rest.

Rik said...

There are 2 groups of allied countries.
Ones like Holland, Sweden (and further up on the road Germay) which are potential active reformers.
The other ones from the South. That are reacting to the mess the made themselves and hope the EU will take them out (but it won't). Basically the ones that will be pushed at home to do things that are basically irrational but are in the category 'enough is enough'.
The North might see such a reaction as well btw, but the other scenario seems more likely).
This might create a situation that the cards need to be reshuffled and with that Cameron reforms can be pushed through.

The first group demands an active approach. You have to go after tham.
The second (or the Northern group when the population via ballotboxes gets enough of it) will basically work by itself. Only media events of similar countries doing other things than seem as a absolute necessity by their own leaders might speed up thing.
Things have a different dynamic.

The good thing with the South is that the process seems irreversable. It is a problem they created themselves but donot have the stomach to tackle. Simply by the natural flow moving South and with these percentages the wall in which they will crash cannot be far away.

What happens in the East is hardly relevant imho. Poland possibly an exception but noit a big one.
They had better looked into countries like Finland or Austria.

Anonymous said...

Who is for the EU? Those who try to get free stuff from others, so: socialists, parasitic bureaucrats and kleptocratic oligarchs (rentiers)..

It is pointless and laughable to root for a "reform". The EU should be abolished ASAP.

Those who want to reform the EU are in for a nasty surprise. I used to entertain the idea, but now I realize it's not going to work. It's more complex, more expensive and less like to work than a collapse/exit, etc.

It's depressing to see how many EU-fanatics there are out there.

Rik said...

Agree with most of your analysis.

It is clear that as far as the UK population goes further integration is an absolute no go.
No popular platform whatssoever available for that, not even to mention a sustainable platform.
And clearly traditional UK politics have meesed this one up big time. By signing long term/open ended deals with no popular sustainable platform whatsoever, not even close.

However doesnot the fact that there are very similar percentages in a lot of other countries simply indicate that the issue can be solved within the EU itself (a considerably less risky way, if achievable of course) iso by moving out of it?

One can question if Cameron's basic set up will be seen as sufficient for the UK electorate.
But nobody even remotely has come up with a decent (elaborate) exit strategy. Unless you see middlefingering Barosso as such of course.
Even IP after years admitted that it is a very complicated procedure that likely will take years. We knew that but would like to hear how it should be done and what would be a likely outcome and why that would be likely realistic and not 'castles in the sky'.

On the legal issue. Blair eg was simply entitled to sign the UK up for things. And by the UK people. At the end of the day it is partly (even possibly largely) a mistake that comes for the account of the UK people. The other sides simply should be able to rely that countries like the UK when signing up to things will stick to it. The point I want to make is that you can not simply walk away from important long term international commitments every time the electorate changes its views. Basically the same as halfway a lease contract for a car you cannot come up with: 'well I have seen a much nicer new model, I think I go for that'.
As said at the end of the day it is something that basically comes for the account of the UK and its people. It simply did allow (and effectively still does allow) its govenment without sufficient not even remotely sustainable (which imho seems necessary for long term commitments of this kind) to sign up to international commitments.

Shouldnot you fix that as well. Simply nothing in the book (only this bad experience) that forbids any future UK government to make the same mistake. No constitution like provisions that require say a 2/3 majority or even better to prescribe a referendum when certain powers are trnsferred.
This time it is the EU in a decade or 2 it might be NATO membership of countries that are very likely to end up in severe trouble (an Ukraine inspired example). You could end up with a high 'big war' probablility because of your government allowing some 3rd world manureplace to become members there. One with no or very little UK national interest involved on top of it.
In other words isnot there some work at home as well? More structural and not only focussing on the EU.

Denis Cooper said...

Rik, when Cameron came back with the present commitment to "ever closer union" excised from the EU treaties, and without it being restated in other words, and in fact with the exact opposite being enshrined in a newly amended treaty, then I would start to believe that perhaps the EU could be reformed in ways which would make it acceptable. But as the disparate views that ordinary people in various foreign countries might hold about the present direction of the EU are unlikely to greatly affect the attitudes of their politicians they will have very little bearing on whether Cameron could achieve that.

Anonymous said...

Why not let's have a referendum once and for all and get it out of the way, the trouble with politicians is they want it all there way , if we choose to leave M Ps would have to work and stop blaming the E U for things that they've imposed on us, we're as if we have closer union with the E U, we might get things a bit better like they do in Germany, like retiring at 60 and other nice things,
If we're half in half out we don't benifit either way,
If the political elite thought the vote might go for a stay in, then we would have had our referendum buy now.
But I for one would vote for a trade only, and cut all the interference we are getting from Brussels , I want out.