A View from the Ground

Shortly before the UK referendum, from April to May, the Pew Research Centre conducted a wide survey (10,491 respondents representing 80% of the EU population) in ten EU nations to learn how citizens view the EU and the then-forthcoming UK referendum. The results are reported here:

http://www.pewglobal.org/2016/06/07/euroskepticism-beyond-brexit/

We summarise some results of the polling exercise in this post. pew-poll-1

The British go to the polls at a time when a new multi-nation survey from Pew Research Center finds that Euroskepticism is on the rise across Europe and that about two-thirds of both the British and the Greeks, along with significant minorities in other key nations, want some powers returned from Brussels to national governments.”

Since both the ideology and the design of the EU are hostile to the return of accrued powers to the member states, this option for reform is not available to meet the expectations of voters.

The British are not the only ones with doubts about the European Union. The EU’s image and stature have been on a roller coaster ride in recent years throughout Europe. In a number of nations the portion of the public with a favorable view of the Brussels-based institution fell markedly from 2012 to 2013 as the European economy cratered. It subsequently rebounded in 2014 and 2015. But the EU is again experiencing a sharp dip in public support in a number of its largest member states.”

pew-poll-2

The UK referendum vote did not start the negative reaction to the EU, it merely echoes it, though it may contribute to a more rapid increase in this dissolution, as feared by the EU mandarins.

It’s worth noting from this extract that sentiment against the EU swings up and down in parallel with the state of the economy. This suggests that at least some of the claims for economic competence made by the EU are widely believed. Of course there may be little causal connection between the EU’s activities and the state of the economy; the latter may be affected more by the activities of industry, trade and consumers. However, it costs a great deal of taxpayers’ money to achieve negligible economic benefit.

EU favorability is down in five of the six nations surveyed in both 2015 and 2016. There has been a double-digit drop in France (down 17 percentage points) and Spain (16 points), and single-digit declines in Germany (8 points), the United Kingdom (7 points) and Italy (6 points).”

This was before the referendum. It is reasonable to suppose that expressions of scepticism have increased following the Brexit result.

Europeans are divided along ideological lines in their views of the EU, but this division is not a simple matter of left versus right in each society. In some nations Euroskepticism is a right-wing issue, in others it is a left-wing cause.”

It is not clear what “divided along ideological lines” means to thideology-1e Pew researchers. They rule out political ideology, as the ‘Euroskepticism’ they describe comes from both left and right; so also does support for the EU. Clearly it is not the EU’s ideology, which we refer to elsewhere, as there is little indication that Europeans are fully aware of this ideology, let alone that they support it.

The EU’s handling of economic issues is another huge source of disaffection with the institution. About nine-in-ten Greeks (92%) disapprove of how the EU has dealt with the ongoing economic crisis. Roughly two-thirds of the Italians (68%), French (66%) and Spanish (65%) similarly disapprove. …The strongest approval of Brussels’ economic efforts is in Poland and Germany (both 47%).

The EU declares that its top priority is “A Deeper and Fairer Economic and Monetary Union”. Either this is not the real priority or they are not competent to deliver it. Or both, of course.

The 1957 Treaty of Rome, the founding document of what eventually became the European Union, pledges its signatories, and all the nations that later acceded to it, ‘…to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.’ … The Pew Research Center survey finds that in six of 10 countries more people want devolution of EU power than support the status quo or favor giving more power to the Brussels-based institution.”

The EU treaties do not provide any mechanism for returning powers to national governments. Ever closer union was a pledge made by all signatories to the Treaty and is irreversible. (Note though, that David Cameron got some sort of opt-out from ever closer union for Britain during his February 2016 negotiations – another signal of Britain’s half-hearted participation in the project.)

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