British citizens view Russia more favorably than the European Union, a survey has revealed. The poll also shows that the UK is largely divided over whether it should remain a member of the European block ahead of the planned referendum in 2017.
Former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Michael Ashcroft, commissioned a poll aimed at ascertaining the British public opinion of the EU. The findings of the poll were published this Saturday in a report entitled “Europe on Trial: Public opinion and Britain’s relationship with the EU.”
— Lord Ashcroft (@LordAshcroft) March 23, 2014
As part of the survey, 20,000 people were asked to rate a list of
27 countries and institutions on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of
how favorably they viewed them. Russia surpassed the EU with an
average score of 4.07, coming 21st in the list. The only
countries and institutions that scored worse than the EU in terms
of public opinion were Israel, the EU Parliament, Saudi Arabia,
Iran and North Korea.
The poll was, however, taken before diplomatic relations took a turn for the worse between the EU and Russia following the integration of Crimea into Russian territory.
Canada topped the list, closely followed by Sweden, Switzerland and Norway.
Furthermore, the report revealed how divided the UK is over its
relations with the EU ahead of the planned referendum on
Britain’s membership in 2017. The poll found that 41 percent of
those asked think that the UK should remain in EU, while exactly
the same percentage believe Britain would be better off on its
own. The rest of those asked were undecided.
“But those who say the whole country is clamoring for a referendum are wrong. Some, certainly, think it is the greatest question of our time. But even among the most hostile voters, only a third put Europe among the most crucial issues facing the country,” said Lord Ashcroft in an article in The Sun.
He went on to say that although many Britons were in favor of Prime Minister David Cameron’s policy to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Europe, they are not confident in Cameron’s ability as a negotiator.
“The trouble is, three-quarters of them doubt it will work. Most of the pessimists think other countries will not be prepared to make concessions to Britain however well the PM argues the case,” he said.
Ashcroft concluded that his poll was indicative of public uncertainty and a need for reassurance over Britain’s possible future outside the EU.
Prime Minister Cameron pledged that a referendum to decide the UK’s future in the EU will be held in 2017, if his Conservative Party is voted in in the next general election in 2015.