Support for EU membership reaches record high in UK

Is Ukip's rising popularity giving Euroscepticism a bad name, making public adopt the opposing view?

Jose Manuel Barroso
(Image credit: JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty)

Support for membership of the European Union has risen to a 23-year high in the United Kingdom, according to the latest poll by Ipsos-MORI.

Ukip might be gaining ground in the lead-up to the Rochester and Strood by-election, but the latest national survey suggests 56 per cent of the UK would vote to stay in the EU, compared with 36 per cent who would vote for an exit.

When excluding the "don't knows", this translates to 61 per cent support for Britain's EU membership and 39 per cent opposed.

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This marks the highest support for EU membership since 1991, when the European Community was officially renamed the European Union, says Ipsos-MORI, which interviewed more than 1,000 people in the poll.

Iain Martin, at the Daily Telegraph, suggests it is Ukip's increasing popularity that has actually polarised the debate. "Ukip may be giving Euroscepticism a bad name," he says. "Those of us who are moderate sceptics, who could be persuaded to vote for out in a referendum for an optimistic and outward-looking alternative, want answers, not shouting."

George Eaton at the New Statesman believes a more likely explanation is "the rise in economic optimism and the fading of the eurozone crisis", although he concedes there are signs it could be returning, with more voters content with the status quo.

In a follow-up question, Ipsos-MORI found that 29 per cent of voters would like to see Britain's relationship with Europe remain broadly the same, while 14 per cent want closer political and economic integration.

More than a third of people, 34 per cent, said they would like Britain to return to being part of an economic community in Europe, without political links.

David Cameron has promised an in/out referendum if the Conservatives win in next year's general election. However, Jose Manuel Barroso, the outgoing European Commission President, has warned that Britain would be left with "zero influence" in global affairs if it left.

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