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Point of View: Sky poll reveals still all to play for in EU debate

June 6, 2013 11:08 AM
By Peter Wilding in British Influence
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Yesterday, Sky ran a day of comment on their Sky News/Survation poll which asked voters the fundamental question "Do you think the UK should remain a member of the EU?".

Despite twenty years of negative publicity and precious little dynamic campaigning on the merits of our membership of the European Union, it was remarkable that a substantial 44% said 'Yes'; 45% said 'No' and 11% said 'Don't Know'.

It was even more remarkable that, although half stated they were adamant in their opinion, 45% believed there was a chance they could change their mind between now and the anticipated referendum - indicative of the need for a better quality of information and debate on the EU that we are seeking to provide.

This point was driven home by the response to two further questions: 39% of respondents said they were unsure how they would vote in referendum - because they are unsure of what the UK government could actually re-negotiate and another 26% of people said they were unsure how they would vote because they simply had insufficient knowledge of the pros and cons of the benefits of membership. Once they felt comfortable knowing what the UK gets from the EU and what the UK could achieve by reform, even over half of those people who are currently opposed to membership, would vote to stay in.

It seems that trade within the single market gains the greatest acceptance from those surveyed. Only 31% mentioned that they wanted to see renegotiation suggesting that people recognise the palpable benefits of free trade within the EU. That's one of the reasons why British Influence are launching a new campaign on the benefits of the single market called ourbiggestmarket with a special focus on smaller businesses and what they stand to benefit from EU membership and why we are working with Business form New Europe on promoting a five-point Business Manifesto for Reform including the City's role as Europe's global financial centre and the importance of EU-US free trade talks.

But it is salutary to note that the one topic that riles the public is the one issue that UKIP is making their own - immigration. 65% say it is their top concern. Perhaps the Commission might have considered the toxicity of this issue in the UK before they launched their action against the British Government on their plans for curbing benefit tourism. In fact it is vital that the EU and all people with an interest in promoting British membership need to take note of the fact that the people are far from anti-EU, are infinitely persuadable and that, in the battle for their hearts and minds, there is all to play for.

Peter Wilding is the Founder and Director of British Influence. In twenty years of working in European affairs he has practised and lectured as a solicitor in EU law, been Head of Media for the Conservative Party in the European Parliament, and Director of CabinetDN, a Brussels public affairs consultancy. He has made regular appearances on the BBC's Europe Direct and authored "Influencing the European Union".