Sunday, April 27, 2003
Let us have our say - 27th April 2003, 15.42

Paul Robinson has written an article for the Spectator, putting forward the argument that Britain should hold a referendum on the proposed European Constitution, through private financing and organisation (a preferable outcome), if the government is unwilling.

YouGov also held a poll for the Spectator on this issue and on Britain's general relationship with the European Union.

We asked if Britain should sign up to the following proposals, if that were finally agreed: an elected president for the EU (37 per cent said ‘should’, 50 per cent said ‘should not’); a common defence policy (44 per cent to 46 per cent); an EU army — with British forces coming under EU command (20 per cent to 69 per cent); establishing guidelines by which the running of each member country’s economy would be co-ordinated (25 per cent to 63 per cent).

This survey shows how the structure of questions can shape a response. A common defence policy is a borderline issue and may be viewed as an acceptance by the public of security as a collective, international enterprise. Once concrete examples of sovereignty are given - British forces coming under EU command, or the central co-ordination of the economy, opposition to these proposals shoots up.

Should it then be left to Parliament to decide whether to sign up, or should there be a referendum? Only 12 per cent were willing to leave it to the politicians — 82 per cent wanted the whole nation to give its verdict.

This is a very satisfactory outcome and a result that many Labour politicians at the grassroots may note.

We also asked about a number of policy areas, and whether in each case ‘all’ or ‘most’ decisions should be made at national level or at the EU level. Only in the area of ‘crime and justice’ did a majority of people (just a shade over 50 per cent) think that all decisions should be made at national level. The other results: environmental policy (all/national: 23 per cent; most/national: 24 per cent; jointly: 36 per cent; most/EU: 11 per cent; all/EU: 3 per cent; don’t know: 4 per cent). Foreign policy: 33–26–31–5–2–4. Defence policy: 40–22–28–5–2–3. Economic policy: 43–32–19–3–0–4. Asylum and immigration policy: 45–16–26–6–4–3. Crime and justice: 50–26–16–3–1–3.

From this, it is clear that the model of national sovereignty appeals to between a third and a half of those individuals surveyed. This result is not that positive but is still more popular than the polled figure of 31% ready to vote for the Tories. Except for environment policy, those who wished to give the European Union the major or sole competence over policy hovered around a tenth of those surveyed except for economic policy where support for the European Union plunged. The primacy of economic issues over security issues also demonstrates that the electorate is far more intelligent than its representatives; that those surveyed remain very sceptical of the Euro area institutions; that they are aware that the European Union will probably have more say over economic policy than security policy after the Iraqi war; and that memories of the exchange rate mechanism have fostered a deep scepticism of subordinating economic policy to 'Europe'.


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