It’s not easy to please all of two-speed Europe

 
Stephan Shakespeare
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WHAT is the economic future for Europe and what role does public opinion play in it? Tomorrow sees the YouGov-Cambridge Symposium on “Public Opinion, Economic Governance and the Future Of Europe” where speakers such as Alistair Darling, Francis Maude, Lord Griffiths and Jim O’Neill will discuss just that.

YouGov-Cambridge has conducted what the editor of this newspaper yesterday called the “most sophisticated polling on European attitudes yet to be conducted” – a cross-country nationally representative survey of 11,000 people.

While Allister discussed the collision course that the UK and Europe are heading for in terms of greater or less integration, I want to focus on a particular policy area and show how it makes governing in such an environment problematic.

Strong majorities in France, Germany and Italy back an EU-wide tax on financial trading but in Britain support is much lower – just 29 per cent are in favour, although 44 per cent neither support nor oppose.

When we tally this with other polling, it shows people tend to be in favour of taxes that will be paid by other people. The assumption can be made that in Britain we see it hitting us more than on continental Europe and therefore dislike it.

With public opinion as it is, can it be a surprise that politicians on both sides of the channel are taking the opposing stances that they are?

I’ll mention just one other finding of note – in terms of what people think of the state of their countries’ economy; over three-quarters of Brits, Italians and Germans say their economy is doing badly, compared to 20 per cent of Germans, 31 per cent of Danes, 21 per cent of Swedes and three per cent of Norwegians. With such divergent views of where we are, finding convergence will be difficult.

Stephan Shakespeare is the chief executive of YouGov