A recent Guardian/ICM poll indicates that 51 percent of respondents favor voting to take the U.K. out of the European Union were an in/out referendum offered, a two percent increase from last year.
The poll suggests not only that the British are becoming increasingly eurosceptic, but that British eurosceptics are more convinced in their beliefs than europhiles. Only 22 percent of respondents would “Definitely vote to stay in,” while 36 percent of respondents would “Definitely vote to leave,” hardly a ringing endorsement of pro-E.U. arguments.
The rise in eurosceptic sentiment is not an indication of Britain becoming more sympathetic to libertarianism. The most prominent eurosceptic party in the U.K., the United Kingdom Independence Party, has policies that are hardly conducive to the principles of limited government. I have written on UKIP’s lack of libertarian credentials here and here.
It is almost a certainty that British Prime Minister David Cameron will appease his party’s euroscepticism in some way before the next general election. Much of the support that the Conservatives have been losing recently is in large part thanks to UKIP, which is ideally placed to pick up Conservative supporters who are uncomfortable with the Conservative Party’s lack of action against the E.U. and the current partnership with the europhilic Liberal Democrats.
Euroscepticism is not jut a right-of-center opinion, despite contemporary rhetoric:
Fifty-seven percent of Tories want to pull Britain out, compared with 44% of Labour supporters and 34% of Lib Dems. But Cameron may be interested to learn than only 41% of his party's supporters are definitely committed to pulling Britain out, leaving a majority of Conservatives who retain a more equivocal or pro-European position.
David Cameron should offer a referendum, and do it quickly. His coalition government has enough to worry about without the European issue being a constant source of irritation. With the socialist Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband enjoying good polling numbers offering a referendum on E.U. membership would be a chance to do something with popular support.