Entry 9

Surprise UK newspaper poll favours leave-EU option

Readers of the popular right wing newspaper Mail on Sunday woke up to read a rare story earlier this month: a poll showing that 51% of Britons want to leave the EU if the referendum was held tomorrow.

In recent years, the great majority of polls have shown a majority for the remain-in-EU option. The newspaper argued that the ‘migrant crisis’ is the cause for the drop in support. If that is true, this is bed news for UK remaining in the EU. The reason is because the ‘crisis’ shows few signs of being solved in the short term as it is the most complicated political crisis to face the EU since the Maastricht Treaty of 1992. It will thus retain its headline status and be a constant reminder of the EU as a source of trouble.

This is bad news for the UK government as it negotiates its ‘Reform the EU’ agenda with sympathetic EU states. The heart of that agenda is limiting welfare benefits for EU citizens coming to the UK under their right of free movement.

But that has dropped down the European political agenda. Instead the key focus ofEU policy now is reform of the Schengen area’s rules that have been interpreted during the crisis so as to allow migrants to cross boundaries in the area without registering in the country of entry to the EU.

As Britain is not a Schengen member and is hesitant about accepting a large number of migrants from the Middle East, its contribution to halting migrant flows into central Europe via Hungary is relatively weak. Continuing headlines of ‘crisis’ will weaken support in the UK for the government’s case for ‘remain-in-the-EU’.

But it will find some comfort in this conclusion by a leading UK polling company: ‘. . . the broad picture is that the British public are NOT overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the EU, they are pretty evenly divided over whether to stay in the European Union or not’.

This “exploratory committee for the EU referendum” includes former Conservative cabinet minister Owen Paterson and UKIP’s only MP, Douglas Carswell. They aim to “provide resources for crucial thinking”. The newness of The Know EU campaign, the very small number of MPs on the “exploratory committee” point to the size of the organisational challenge facing the ‘out’ campaign.

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