Thursday, August 27, 2009

An interesting opinion poll

I have just been handed an interesting opinion poll, looking at British public opinion towards the EU. The headline figure shows a fairly even distribution of opinion with 37% having a positive attitude to the EU, 40% a negative attitude and 17% neither positive nor negative.

But more interesting (and dismaying) is the figure which shows that over 83% of those polled said they knew little or nothing about the EU. That in itself is a damning indictment on the efforts of those of us who see the need for a strong Britain at the heart of a strong Europe and should set alarm bells ringing.

We need to be more effective in countering the negativity, distortions of fact and scaremongering which has become abundant. These untruths are peddled on a regular basis by those who falsely claim to represent our national interest and sadly they are blithely parroted by a considerable section of the British media, either too lazy to check out the facts or too biased to care.

This campaign of misinformation has lead to results in the poll which show that the average respondent believed that the UK's net contribution to the EU is 23% of gross national income. The actual figure is over 100 times less at 0.21%. Equally there is an acute lack of awareness that the UK government actually plays a hugely important role in deciding European laws. When asked how they would react if they were told that the UK government always has a say in the way EU laws are made, over 62% of respondents said it would make them feel more positive about UK membership of the EU. Implicit in this figure therefore is that at least 62% do not think the UK has a say in laws and that somehow they are decided by 'Brussels'.

Of course this is not true. The present UK government is in fact one of the most influential players when it comes to EU decision-making. The UK is at present an engaged, informed and highly influential member of the Council of Ministers. Rarely does legislation pass which has not been shaped and moulded by the UK and rarely will the UK ever be outvoted.

The poll also shows that public opinion does recognise the inescapable reality that so many of the major issues facing us can no longer be solved by nation states acting alone. Take climate change, protecting human rights, global poverty, security of energy supplies, global terrorism and the financial crisis. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed recognised that the EU has a key role to play in tackling these pressing issues.

These are not issues that can be resolved through a policy of distance and isolation. But this is precisely the rocky road that David Cameron and his UKIP brothers in arms would take our country down, given half a chance. He would lead the UK to the fringes, where his MEPs already find themselves. He would take us to a position where we would be powerless to tackle these issues. We would lose the power, influence and respect it has taken so long for the UK to build up among our European partners.