A new Ipsos MORI poll shows that 54 per cent of Brits would vote to stay in the EU if a referendum were held today, versus 37 per cent who would vote to leave. This is a big shift. In September 2011, the comparable figures were 49 per cent in favour of leaving versus 41 per cent in favour of staying in (see graph). Other polls over the past few months have shown a similar trend.
There’s a paradox here, Brits are more inclined to say they would vote to remain in the EU at exactly the point when Ukip looks set to win the European elections and Nigel Farage has wiped the floor with Nick Clegg in the In/Out debates. What’s going on? Well, there are number of potential reasons why people are becoming less keen on leaving the EU specifically:
The economy is doing better, meaning the Tories are doing better and that may have a positive effect on attitudes to Cameron’s EU reform stance (though such a feel-good factor can work both ways in Europe).
As an In/Out choice is potentially getting closer, and with Europe in the news, people now have to start thinking about what that means. The stakes are getting higher. There’s a life for the UK outside the EU, but Better Off Outers have yet to set out a credible alternative (“Norway”, “Switzerland” or the “Anglosphere” simply aren’t good enough). That credibility gap isn’t lost on people (or business).
As others have argued, while Farage is effective at maximising the Ukip vote, his message and rhetoric, including the overwhelmingly negative focus on immigration, may be a turn-off for supporters of a UK exit.
This is exacerbated by the predicted wave of uncontrolled immigration from Romania and Bulgaria – which dominated the headlines in late 2013 – not materialising......