British support for staying in the EU has tumbled over the past four months as an influx of migrants into Europe has pushed many voters towards opting for an exit, the Ipsos MORI pollster said yesterday.
UK prime minister David Cameron is seeking to renegotiate relations with the bloc it joined in 1973 ahead of a referendum on membership by the end of 2017.
In one of the starkest illustrations to date of how the migrant crisis may be polarising British views of Europe, the poll showed 52% of Britons would vote to stay in the EU, down from a record 61% in June.
Support for a British exit rose to 39%, the highest level since 2012, up from 27% in June. That more than halves the ‘in’ lead to 13 percentage points from 34 in June.
“We know that immigration has been the big issue over the summer and that has been partly driven by all the stories about migration from Syria and other places into Europe,” Gideon Skinner at Ipsos MORI said.
Cameron has said he wants to argue for Britain to stay inside the EU if he gets the changes he wants from other European leaders.
However, British public opinion on Europe is volatile: In 2012, Ipsos polling showed more Britons wanted to leave than stay. That has since changed but polling shows immigration is now voters’ top concern.
Pro-Europeans warn an exit from the EU would hurt Britain’s economy and could trigger the break-up of the UK by prompting another Scottish independence vote, while opponents of EU membership say Britain would prosper outside.
The most popular of Cameron’s proposed changes include bringing powers back to Britain, restricting free movement of labour, and cutting benefits for EU migrants. Just 37% of voters are confident he will secure a good deal, Ipsos said.
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