Just a third of Britons want to stay in European Union - poll

LONDON Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:45pm IST

The EU and the Union flags fly outside The European Commission Representation in the United Kingdom in central London January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The EU and the Union flags fly outside The European Commission Representation in the United Kingdom in central London January 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

Related Topics

LONDON (Reuters) - Only a third of Britons would vote to stay in the European Union in a proposed referendum, a poll showed on Monday, underlining the scale of Prime Minister David Cameron's task in persuading voters to back his flagship EU policy.

In one of the biggest gambles of his premiership, Cameron promised last month to win back powers from Brussels and hold a vote on Britain's 40-year EU membership.

Cameron would campaign to stay in the EU, provided he can reform Britain's ties with Brussels in the face of opposition from European allies and he secures a second term in an election due in 2015.

Just 33 percent of voters would support his call to remain in the bloc, with 50 percent wanting to leave and 17 percent not planning to vote, according to the Harris Interactive poll in the Financial Times.

Cameron's pledge to win back powers and hold a vote by the end of 2017 upset France and Germany and was criticised by the United States, which wants Britain to hold on to its membership.

The last time Britain held a vote on staying in Europe was in a 1975 referendum when the "Yes" campaign came from behind to win by a wide margin, with 67.2 percent in favour of European membership and 32.8 percent against.

That result failed to take the sting out of an issue that has divided the main British parties for years and helped to bring down two of Cameron's predecessors, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

'HEART AND SOUL'

Cameron said in January he would campaign for Britain to remain in the EU "with all my heart and soul", as long as he repatriates powers. That would set him against "Eurosceptics" in his Conservatives and the many voters who see the EU as a threat to their sovereignty.

However, The Harris poll suggested Cameron could still win round many doubters.

Twelve percent of those planning to vote to leave the EU said they would definitely change their minds if Cameron clawed back powers. Another 47 percent would "possibly" rethink their opposition.

As in 1975, the "Yes" campaign would be well funded by business leaders warning of the economic dangers of Britain walking away from a single market of 500 million people.

Cameron would also have the support of the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, his junior coalition government partner, and the main opposition Labour Party, which supports Britain's membership.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, ahead of Cameron in the polls, visits Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands this week to discuss Britain's EU ties.

While British politicians have long had a feverish debate about Europe, the poll said voters do not share their obsession. Europe came 14th in a list of 15 priorities, far behind health, education and the economy. (Editing by Angus MacSwan)

FILED UNDER:

REUTERS SHOWCASE

WTO Trade Deal

WTO Trade Deal

WTO clinches first global trade deal in its history  Full Article 

Kashmir Attack

Kashmir Attack

Ten dead in Kashmir's worst militant attack in more than a year  Read 

OPEC Meeting

OPEC Meeting

Saudis block OPEC output cut, oil price sinks further.  Full Article 

GDP, RBI Preview

GDP, RBI Preview

GDP growth set to weaken, business wants reforms more than rate cut  Full Article | Related Story 

Social Media

Social Media

Twitter to start tracking users' mobile apps  Full Article 

Jaitley to Rajan

Jaitley to Rajan

Jaitley likely to meet Rajan on Monday to urge rate cut  Full Article 

Banking Sector

Banking Sector

India moves to allow more businesses to offer basic financial services.  Full Article 

Forever21 in India

Forever21 in India

Forever21 sets sights on Indian cities, but please hold the hot pants  Full Article 

Japan Economy

Japan Economy

Japan inflation slows in October, output and spending show signs of recovery  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage