Poll: EU citizens demand a hard line on hard Brexiteers

Nathanael Williams

Hard line on hard Brexit is the opinion of a majority of Europeans according to new poll

A MAJORITY OF EU CITIZENS in the rest of Europe want the EU’s Brexit negotiators to drive a hard bargain and enforce tough positions on the UK during talks.

In a new poll, commissioned by the European People’s Party (EPP) and conducted by pollsters RED C, the vast majority of EU citizens want officials like chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to focus on protecting the interests of the remaining 27 member states and not on securing privileges for the UK or creating a soft separation.

Seventy eight per cent of EU citizens want Barnier’s negotiating team to put EU interests first regardless of the effect on relations in the Brexit talks and only 22 per cent think the EU’s primary goal should be to build a new privileged economic relationship with the UK.

The statement posed in the survey was if respondents “want the primary objective for Brexit negotiations to focus on protecting good future of remaining EU27.”

The RED C poll took a sample of 1,000 respondents from nine EU member states including France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden. Released yesterday (Tuesday 16 May) the poll follows a month of tension which has seen UK Prime Minister Theresa May accuse EU Governments of trying to sabotage the UK’s upcoming General Election on 8 June.

“When examining the conditions of Brexit, our first priority will always be to secure a good future for them.” Manfred Weber

Speaking to CommonSpace Alyn Smith, a member of the European Parliament for the SNP, said that opinion in the EU during negotiations has been made harsher by moves from the UK Government such as failing to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK.

He said: “It is the UK, and the Tories in particular, who are the cause of the uncertainty, but if the other European nations are really looking for progress on this then it is open to them to unilaterally and unconditionally guarantee the rights of UK nationals in their countries.

“That will, as well as reassuring millions of people, really change the weather on what I fear could become a protracted discussion and people need answers now.”

“It is the UK, and the Tories in particular, who are the cause of the uncertainty.” Alyn Smith MEP

According to the poll, the protection of the economies of the remaining member states of the EU is a top priority with 92 per cent of respondents saying it was an important or very important issue. 88 per cent also said it was “right and very important” for the EU to demand that the UK be made to pay its outstanding financial commitments in full before leaving.

Manfred Weber, chairman of the EEP group (which is a centre-right grouping in the European Parliament), said: “The EPP group has always made it clear that our priority in the negotiations with the UK on Brexit was to defend the interests of EU citizens. The results of the opinion poll show that a large majority of EU citizens support this approach.

“In early 2019, the European Parliament will have the huge responsibility of saying Yes or No to the divorce agreement with the UK.  We are the only institution directly elected by the European citizens. When examining the conditions of Brexit, our first priority will always be to secure a good future for them.”

Picture courtesy of European Parliament

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