EU survey reveals tough Brexit-stance and new splits between Europeans and elites

An EU survey published today today shows that two-thirds of Europeans believe the EU should be tough with the UK during Brexit negotiations.
EU Survey
Despite initial worries about the Brexit effect, Europeans are increasingly positive about the European Union.

The Chatham House-Kantor EU survey – “The Future of Europe: Comparing Public and Elite Attitudes” – was conducted in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK.

65% of non-U.K participants said that while EU should stay on good terms with Britain, it should not compromise on its core principles.

Brexit. 70% of Britons said the EU would suffer from the loss of the UK, a sentiment shared by 46% of the continental Europeans. Notably, only 7% of the elites saw Brexit as a threat to the EU.

EU survey
An Leave voter in London in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum.

10,000 members of the public and 2,000 ‘elites’ were involved in the survey.

It concluded in January 2017, before the Dutch and French elections.

The failures of far-right parties in Holland and France, Eurozone economic growth, and Britain’s muddling of its Brexit strategy have led to an increase in approval for the EU since the Brexit vote according to a recent Pew survey.

63% of Europeans now have view the Union in a positive light, a sharp increase from the last years’ figures.

EU survey
a Pro-EU demonstration in Freiburg, Germany.

There was consensus between the elites and the public in four areas.

– The commitment to financial solidarity between the states.

– A positive vision of democracy.

– A feeling of common European identity.

– The EU’s successes (peace, freedom of movement, the Schengen zone, the euro and the single market) and failures (bureaucracy, the refugee crisis, austerity, unemployment, massive immigration).

United States of Europe.
And 47% of the elites and 41% of the public oppose the idea of the ‘United States of Europe,’ though 71% of the elites favour further integration in the long term.

In several other areas, participants were split.

EU membership.
71% of the elites felt they had benefitted from being part of the Union, an opinion shared by only one third of the public. Another third felt they hadn’t benefitted at all, the rest were undecided.

The elites tended to view immigration in a positive light, whereas 51% of the public believed immigration had led to more crime, and 55% of them believed it was putting a strain on the welfare state.

Similarly, 47% of the public felt EU enlargement had gone too far, whereas 58% of the elites supported bringing new members on board.

49% of the elites and 62% of the public were opposed to Turkey becoming part of the EU.

The elites were divided over the usefulness of EU austerity policies. 54% believe they had been inefficient, 28% disagreed.

Equally, they were split over German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy. 59% agreed with it, 30% said it was the wrong decision.

EU survey
Refugees wait for a train to Serbia on a track near a train station in Demir Kapija, Macedonia.

The EU survey suggests that ‘a new societal divide along the libertarian-authoritarian political spectrum,’where authoritarianism is less a system of government, but more a ‘set of preferences.’

These people – often perceived as the ‘losers’ of globalisation – favour authority and are resistant to change.

The more authoritarian-minded are more likely to be middle-aged men with low levels of education living in in rural areas.

The traditional left-right dividing line on the European Union – traditionally about wealth redistribution and class – is now ‘between those with the qualifications, skills and outlook needed to thrive in the more economically and socially liberal environment and those who lack them.’

This divide ‘is pulling Europe in two very different directions,’ says the EU survey.

‘The political challenges facing the EU – particularly the appeal of populist-authoritarian leaders and parties – are likely to remain on the landscape for many years, even after economic growth has been restored and sustained.’

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