Majority of French back holding ‘Frexit’ referendum

Lampooning France's political echelon: "Ideas that stink for a France that reeks." [guy masavi/Flickr]

53% of French surveyed would like to hold a referendum on their country’s continued EU membership, a new poll has revealed, fuelling fears that Britain’s own referendum will give others ideas and unravel the EU’s unity.

A survey by the University of Edinburgh, published on 10 March, looked into public attitudes to the UK’s EU membership referendum in a selection of countries ― Germany, France, Poland, Spain, Ireland, and Sweden.

Among the sample of more than 8,000 voters, the French were the only ones saying in a majority (53%) that they would back holding a similar referendum on their country’s EU membership.

And in Sweden, Germany and Spain there were more respondents in favour of holding a similar referendum than opposed, the survey found.

After the French, the Swedes (49%) seem the most tempted by holding a referendum on the EU, followed by Spaniards (47%) and Germans (45%). Poles (39%) and Irish (38%) were the least favourable.

These were among the stunning results of a study by the University of Edinburgh, which sought to shed light on public opinion about the UK’s referendum in other EU member states and its potential consequences for the EU at large.

“The British referendum is a laboratory for other referendums in Europe,” commented Anand Menon, professor of European politics at King’s College London, quoted in French daily Le Monde.

“Such trivialisation could produce devastating effects,” said Menon who is the director of ‘UK in a changing Europe’, a network of scholars specialised in UK-EU relations.

However, if a referendum were held in the six countries it seems that the outcome would be a firm affirmation of EU membership in Germany, Poland, Spain, and Ireland, the survey stressed.

And even among the French, the proportion of those ready to vote leave appears low, with only 33% backing ‘Frexit’ or a French exit of the European Union. By contrast, 45% would vote remain and 22% are undecided.

37% in Sweden and 27% in Germany would also opt to leave.

“This is a complex issue and it should not be assumed that higher percentages wanting a referendum equates to a more eurosceptic public,” tempers the study’s authors, noting that if a referendum was held in France, the remain camp would win by a clear majority.

In both France and Sweden, there were also more people who think the UK economy would do better outside of the EU although the most common response in both countries is that Brexit would make no difference.

And although respondents in all countries were broadly supportive of Britain’s continued EU membership, the French were also the most favourable to Brexit, with broad rejection of exceptional treatment for Britain.

81% in Spain backed Britain’s continued EU membership, while the most lukewarm country was France with 56% support.

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