Spain heads European opposition to Brexit

New survey shows that 64% of Spaniards want the UK to stay in the EU, while 78% want more integration between member states

Lucía Abellán
"A kiss against hate" in Berlin.
"A kiss against hate" in Berlin.HANNIBAL HANSCHKE (REUTERS)

On Thursday, the people of Britain will decide on a issue that ultimately affects all Europeans.

And continental Europe mostly opposes a Brexit, a new survey shows.

A study by the Germany-based Bertelsmann Foundation shows that 54% of taxpayers in the five biggest EU members – excluding Britain – want Britain to remain in the EU. In the case of Spain, support rises to 64%.

When you ask people about principles, rather than about the current situation, they are much more favorable

Isabell Hoffmann, study chief

The study, scheduled for release on Monday and wo which EL PAÍS has had access, shows that the French are the least enthusiastic about the issue. Only 41% of respondents said they wanted Britain to remain in the EU, an answer that was influenced by historical mistrust between the two nations, as well as London’s increasing reticence toward deeper involvement in the European project.

After surveying nearly 11,000 people in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland, the study finds serious concerns about the possible effects of Brexit on the European Union. One out of four respondents admitted to not knowing whether it is better for Britain to remain or to go.

“We have to admit there is a certain degree of ignorance,” said Isabell Hoffmann, who headed the study. “It’s not hard to understand. Britain’s strategic position has consisted of not discussing the issue abroad so it wouldn’t be perceived as meddling.”

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That lack of awareness is illustrated when respondents were asked about the impact on the EU of a British exit. Although 45% of people said that the EU as a whole would be economically weaker, a full 67% believe it would not have much of an effect on their own specific countries. Spain heads this list again with 71% of respondents confident that a Brexit would not affect Spain.

One of the most revealing items in this study is the link between knowledge about the EU and support for it. In the case of the highly euro-skeptic United Kingdom respondents asked a few technical questions as part of the survey showed little understanding about the union and how it works. In Germany and Italy, more than 80% of respondents showed a good working knowledge of the EU.

The German study also finds that 55% of Europeans support even greater integration, a figure that soars to 78% in Spain and 71% in Italy.

“When you ask people about principles, rather than about the current situation, they are much more favorable,” said Hoffmann, adding: “In Europe there is a very positive attitude.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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