Euro skeptics gaining support, new poll shows

Updated: 2011-11-23 07:59

By Zhang Chunyan (China Daily)

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LONDON - Nearly half of all Britons support Euro skeptics in a new poll as the eurozone debt crisis shifted from one European capital to another.

According to a Harris poll for the British newspaper Metro, 40 percent of Britons believe that Britain would be better off if it left the European Union.

Nine out of 10 are concerned about the effect the euro crisis is having on the British economy.

As the eurozone debt crisis spreads and gets worse, there are also fears that the eurozone might break up.

Spain's Socialists became the fifth government on Sunday in the 17-nation single currency area to be toppled by the debt crisis this year. Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Greece went before.

In the survey, which was published on Monday, seven out of 10 Britons said they had followed the debt crisis in the news.

And 70 percent believe the British economy would have been affected more severely if the nation had adopted the euro.

The poll, which asked whether leaving the European Union would have a positive effect on the economy, was conducted online among 1,031 people over the age of 16 in Britain, between Nov 8 and 15.

Nicola Casarini, research fellow at the EU Institute for Security Studies, told China Daily that "it is a poll done for political reasons and to show support to the growing numbers of Tory euro skeptics in the parliament".

"The euro crisis is a very serious matter, with the potential to make Europe implode. At the same time, it is a great opportunity to advance the European integration process by giving Europe a truly economic and political governance - it all depends, however, on the politicians in power," Casarini said.

Nigel Farage, leader of anti-EU grouping United Kingdom Independence Party, hailed the poll as the "center ground of British public opinion".

Farage said "the only people who will be surprised by these figures are the leadership of the three main parties".

The Daily Mail reported that Tory grandee Michael Heseltine opened his party's divisions over Europe, declaring that Britain will join the euro.

The former deputy prime minister, who serves as an adviser to David Cameron on economic growth, said on Sunday he still believes Britain's future lay within the currency - despite predictions that it could collapse. He said: "I think we will join the euro."

A UK withdrawal - or a closer alignment through euro membership favored by Heseltine and a small minority - would have a substantial effect on investment, politics and society, said Mindful Money, a UK-based social news and knowledge network for the investment community.

One problem is that countries that want to leave and countries that want to stay or integrate further are both divided in their vision of the future, the network said.