Open Europe Blog

We’ve put out a new poll this morning in conjunction with You Gov ahead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the UK tomorrow. The results make for some interesting reading and suggest there are plenty of areas of agreement between the Brits and the Germans. Whether this can translate into a new Anglo-German bargain and wider EU reform remains to be seen, but it provides a good basis for discussions.

The results suggest that Germans are split on the future development of the EU. While 38% say they’d like a more integrated Europe with more decisions taken at the European level, 31% say they’d like a less integrated Europe and 9% favour complete German withdrawal. 14% favour the status quo.

Among British respondents, a less integrated Europe with more decisions taken nationally or locally, is by far the most favoured option (37%). 24% want complete British withdrawal, 15% favour the status quo and only 10% would like more integration with more decisions taken at the European level. This illustrates that rather than a straight in or out choice, the British public has a clear desire for reform. It is now up to the UK Government to deliver a clear reform programme.

While more German than British respondents were sympathetic towards the prospect of more EU integration, a majority in both countries think that national parliaments rather than the European Parliament should be the ultimate check on new EU laws (see graph above, click to enlarge).

In the UK, 55% believe that every country’s national parliament should have the right to block new EU laws and 18% believe that a group of national parliaments working together should have the power to block EU laws – a total of 73%. In Germany, 36% favour a veto for the Bundestag over new EU laws and 22% are in favour of a group of national parliaments being able to block EU laws – a total of 58%. Only 8% of Britons and 21% of Germans think the European Parliament, rather than national parliaments, should have the right to block new EU laws.

Furthermore, in four out of six key policy areas – EU migrants’ access to benefits, police and criminal justice laws, employment laws and regional development subsidies – a majority in both countries said that decisions should be taken at the national rather than at the EU level (see table above).

Of the EU’s three flagship projects – the single market, enlargement and the euro – the single market was considered to be beneficial by the biggest share of voters in both countries. 52% of British voters said the single market is beneficial while 26% said it is not beneficial and 23% are undecided. 74% of German voters said it was beneficial, while 19% said it isn’t, and 8% said they don’t know.

Both British (55%) and German (48%) voters tend to view the impact of EU migrants on their country negatively. A smaller share of voters in both Britain (42%) and Germany (42%) said EU migrants negatively impacted on them personally, while a larger share in Germany (41%) than in Britain (30%) feel that EU migrants have a positive impact on them personally.

Plenty of scope for agreement then, but we’ll end on a note of caution. Merkel remains keen on a step by step approach and is somewhat hamstrung by her new coalition partners. Cameron will have to secure a much wider base for reform than just her, while she is also more likely to publicly back him if he has formed other alliances.

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