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French are 'even more anti-EU than the Brits'

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French are 'even more anti-EU than the Brits'
Photo: AFP
08:30 CEST+02:00
A study on how citizens across Europe are feeling towards the EU and migrants has revealed that the French are among the most negative, while it's perhaps no surprise which nation is the most positive.

The French, along with the Belgians, the Dutch and the Italians, harbour the most negative views of the European Union, according to the poll by Elabe, carried out for French news site Atlantico.

Only 26 percent of the French and the Italians consider that there are “more advantages than drawbacks” when it comes to being part of the EU.

For the Dutch and the Belgians it's only 25 percent.

Whereas in Britain, which is embroiled in an increasingly bitter debate on whether or not to stay in the EU ahead of June's referendum, 36 percent of people believe there are “more advantages than drawbacks” of EU membership.

On the other hand, 40 percent of French people think the opposite – that the EU has more downsides than positive aspects, compared to 37 percent of Belgians and Dutch.  In Britain the number also stood at 40 percent.

Elabe's head of political studies, Yves-Marie Cann said part of the antagonism towards the EU in France, can be explained by the fact the population “had higher expectations towards the European Union, certainly more than in the UK”.

“EU membership has always been a subject of debate in the UK, whereas it's fairly new in France and has grown with the disappointments, mainly economic, that have accumulated in recent years,” Cann told Atlantico.

'There's no real debate in France like in the UK'

The analyst said criticism had grown towards the EU in France because instead of protecting European markets as many had hoped, they saw the bloc as a “Trojan horse of unbridled liberalism” in that it increased competition between countries and between Europe and emerging markets.

He also believed the recent terror attacks in Europe have had an impact on French public opinion.

“The European Union is perceived as incapable of ensuring security within its territory and to control the external borders and to regulate migration flows.”

The political analyst believed an open debate on the merits of the EU, as is taking place in the UK, may boost the anti-EU National Front, but it would also force France's two pro-Europe mainstream parties to face up to the issue. 

The survey revealed that Spain, a country that has suffered from severe austerity measures imposed under pressure from Brussels, is home to those with the most positive view of EU membership.

Some 54 percent of Spaniards believe there are “more advantages to drawbacks” of being in the EU, compared to 42 percent of Germans – who are normally the most upbeat towards the EU, given they are the bloc's most powerful country.

The survey is just the latest to show the growing anti-EU feeling in France, which in real terms could also be seen by the fact the anti-EU National Front picked up a record 6.8 million votes in last year's regional elections.

Earlier this month, The Local reported on a survey by the University of Edinburgh that revealed most French people want to follow Britain by holding a referendum on the country's European Union membership.

That survey also revealed that, unlike other European countries, the French are not too fussed if Britain stays or goes in the June 23rd referendum.

When asked if they wanted Britain to remain, France was the only country in which there was not an absolute majority who said "yes".

"Between two-thirds and fourth-fifths of respondents in each country want Britain to remain in the EU, with the exception of France where public opinion is tighter, with 56 per cent wanting Britain to remain, but 44 per cent saying they want Britain to leave," said the study which was published earlier this week.

The new Elabe poll for Atlantico also showed the French were among the most reluctant to welcome refugees and migrants with 58 percent against the country allowing refugees into the country, compared to 51 percent of Brits and 55 percent of Dutch and Belgians.

On the other hand, some 69 percent of Spanish and 67 percent of Germans believe their governments must welcome refugees.

The poll was carried out last month and saw almost 5,000 people across the seven European nations interviewed.

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