By Dr Kevin Cunningham & Dr Michael Turner
Dr Kevin Cunningham was the former Targeting & Analysis Manager at the British Labour Party and led Labour’s Campaign Targeting and Analysis team between 2011 and 2015
Dr Michael Turner is Research Director at BMG Research
David Cameron has secured a deal on Europe, but will the public react positively to it? Recent polling suggests that they will. In mid-January, when David Cameron announced the terms of his negotiation with the EU, BMG research conducted a poll to determine which of his demands would affect the voting intentions of those who currently support leaving the EU.
By a significant margin, limiting migrant access to welfare was the most popular demand. Of those supporting to leave, some 41% indicated that if EU migrant access to welfare was restricted they would be more likely to vote to remain. Having secured an ‘emergency brake’ for seven years on certain benefit payments as well as future restrictions on child benefit, this would appear to be somewhat promising for the Prime Minister if he can sell the new terms as a success. If just half of these voters actually switch, support to remain would increase by roughly 10percentage points from today’s figures.
The second most popular demand related to changes around securing for the UK a veto on EU directives. The poll found that 29% of those intending to leave indicate that they would be more likely to remain should Cameron achieve this demand. However, Cameron’s ‘red card’ appears to be a relatively weak alternative and as it requires the backing of 55 percent of the 28 national parliaments, it would appear unlikely that this measure will actually go on to affect support for leave or remain.
The third most popular demand was the target to reduce business regulations. Some 21% of those intending to leave stated that they would be more likely to remain should Cameron achieve a target to reduce business regulations in the UK. Junker has made improving EU competitiveness a key priority, agreeing to ‘enhance competitiveness’.
Much lower figures of 13% and 12% are influenced by assurances over equal access to the European market or the removal of the clause on an ‘ever closer union’. These were the two issues for which Cameron arguably did not achieve. While Cameron achieved an assurance that Britain is not committed to the ‘ever closer union’, the ever closer union itself will effectively continue to remain. While Cameron may argue that the EU has recognised the multi-currency union for the first time, Junker has insisted that there is no deal granting London a veto over Eurozone issues.
Clearly, the public is more exercised over the ability of Britain to control its own affairs and to some extent the Prime Minister has alleviated some of these key concerns. While the public currently appear less concerned with further convergence of the EU, this remains an area for which Cameron has achieved very little. The ability of Britain to pull the brakes on further convergence in the Eurozone remains weak. Equivalently, the threat future convergence poses to the influence of non-Eurozone countries within the EU remains considerable. In due course this may become the campaign issue, but for the moment public awareness of this is low. With a referendum in June, the question is whether the haphazard leave campaign can sufficiently emphasise and amplify the importance of this threat.
A full breakdown of the results supporting this article can be found here soon.
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