New Open Europe/YouGov poll: A majority of Britons and Germans want a greater role for national parliaments in EU decision-making and national control over several key policy areas
In both Britain and Germany a clear majority feel that national parliaments, rather than the European Parliament, should act as the ultimate check on new EU laws. A total of 73% of Britons and 58% of Germans think that either every country's national parliament or a group of national parliaments should be able to block proposed new EU laws. Only 8% of Britons and 21% of Germans think the European Parliament, rather than national parliaments, should have the right to block new EU laws.
Open Europe's Research Director Stephen Booth said,
"That a majority of people in Britain and Germany want decisions over many key policy areas made nationally rather than at the EU level is an encouraging basis for David Cameron's bid to secure Angela Merkel's support for a reformed EU that does less but better. If he is to make this a reality, he must now set out a series of proposals for reform that can be road tested with leaders and electorates across Europe."
"It is clear that Britons and Germans agree that the European Parliament is not the answer to the EU's democratic deficit. National parliaments remain the ultimate source of democratic legitimacy and accountability and must therefore be given a greater say in the EU decision making process."
To read Open Europe's briefing accompanying the poll, click here:
Germans are split on the future development of the EU. While 38% say they'd like a more integrated Europe with more decisions taken at the European level, 31% say they'd like a less integrated Europe and 9% favour complete German withdrawal. 14% favour the status quo.
Among British respondents, a less integrated Europe with more decisions taken nationally or locally, is by far the most favoured option (37%). 24% want complete British withdrawal, 15% favour the status quo and only 10% would like more integration with more decisions taken at the European level. This illustrates that rather than a straight in or out choice, the British public has a clear desire for reform. It is now up to the UK Government to deliver a clear reform programme.
While more German than British respondents were sympathetic towards the prospect of more EU integration, a majority in both countries think that national parliaments rather than the European Parliament should be the ultimate check on new EU laws. In the UK, 55% believe that every country's national parliament should have the right to block new EU laws and 18% believe that a group of national parliaments working together should have the power to block EU laws - a total of 73%. In Germany, 36% favour a veto for the Bundestag over new EU laws and 22% are in favour of a group of national parliaments being able to block EU laws - a total of 58%. Only 8% of Britons and 21% of Germans think the European Parliament, rather than national parliaments, should have the right to block new EU laws.
Given the differing domestic parliamentary traditions in Britain (unitary) and Germany (federal), it is unsurprising that more British than German respondents tend towards every country's national parliament rather than a group of national parliaments having the right to block EU laws. However, it is unclear whether people would take the same view if they were asked whether they agreed that a single national parliament in another member state could unilaterally block an EU proposal that was in Britain's interests. Nevertheless, our findings illustrate the strong desire in both countries for a strengthened role for national parliaments as a check on EU power.
In four out of six key policy areas - EU migrants' access to benefits, police and criminal justice laws, employment laws and regional development subsidies - a majority in both countries said that decisions should be taken at the national rather than at the EU level (see table above).
There is clear support in both countries for further reductions to the overall level of the EU budget with this proving the single most popular option in both countries, albeit by a larger margin in Britain (47%) than in Germany (38%). More Germans said they would be happy to keep EU spending at its current level (34%) than Britons (20%) but neither showed any appetite for increasing EU spending - only 7% in the UK and 12% in Germany.
Of the EU's three flagship projects - the single market, enlargement and the euro - the single market was considered to be beneficial by the biggest share of voters in both countries. 52% of British voters said the single market is beneficial while 26% said it is not beneficial and 23% are undecided. 74% of German voters said it was beneficial, while 19% said it isn't, and 8% said they don't know.
The shared British and German view that the single market is beneficial but that more policies should be decided nationally rather than at the EU level suggests an appetite in both countries for a slimmed down, more trade focused EU.
Both British (55%) and German (48%) voters tend to view the impact of EU migrants on their country negatively. A smaller share of voters in both Britain (42%) and Germany (42%) said EU migrants negatively impacted on them personally, while a larger share in Germany (41%) than in Britain (30%) feel that EU migrants have a positive impact on them personally.
When asked to choose from a list of EU leaders to potentially replace their current leader, 32% of British voters opted for replacing David Cameron with Angela Merkel, who was way out in front of the rest of the field, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte the second most popular choice, but by only 4% of respondents (49% didn't know who to choose). German voters, on the other hand, either didn't know (41%) who to replace Angela Merkel with or opted for leaders who were not named on our list (31%). It seems none of the options listed were deemed adequate replacements for 'Mutti!
When asked which other European team they might support if theirs was knocked out of the upcoming World Cup in Brazil, only 8% of Germans said they would support England, while only 6% of Brits said they would support Germany. This shouldn't be taken too personally though. Spain was the single most popular team, but was selected by only 13% of Brits and 10% of Germans, with the overwhelming majority in both countries saying they would not support another European team or did not know who they would support.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1065 German adults and 2141 GB adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th and 21st February 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all German and GB adults (aged 18+).
For a full breakdown of the answers, including demographical data and voting intentions, see the links below.
Open Europe is an independent think-tank calling for reform of the European Union with offices in London and Brussels and a partner organisation in Germany, Open Europe Berlin. Its supporters include: Lord Leach of Fairford, Director, Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd; Lord Wolfson, Chief Executive, Next Plc; Hugh Sloane, Co-Founder and Chief Executive, Sloane Robinson; Sir Stuart Rose, former Chairman, Marks and Spencer Plc; Jeremy Hosking, Director, Marathon Asset Management; Sir Henry Keswick, Chairman, Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd; Sir Martin Jacomb, former Chairman, Prudential Plc; Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover KG, Life President, J Sainsbury Plc; Michael Dobson, Chief Executive, Schroders Plc; David Mayhew, former Chairman, JP Morgan Cazenove; Tom Kremer, Chairman, Seven Towns Ltd; Michael Freeman, Co-founder, Argent property group.
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