French are ‘even more anti-EU than the Brits’

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.

French are 'even more anti-EU than the Brits'
Photo: AFP

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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‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres


Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said.