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European Voters Move Into Line With Cameron's View On Reform

Published: 07th February 2015 08:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th February 2015 08:57 AM   |  A+A-

David Cameron1AP

David Cameron is winning the argument over reform of the European Union, according to an extensive poll which shows that half of voters across its biggest economies back him.

A survey of countries, including Germany and France, found that voters are increasingly concerned about the EU and are demanding change.

The findings will be a boost to the Prime Minister, who has pledged to reform significantly Britain's relationship with Brussels before holding an in-out referendum on UK membership by 2017.

Mr Cameron has faced resistance to calls to transform the EU from leaders, including Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Francois Hollande, the French president.

But the ComRes poll conducted for the New Direction think tank shows that a significant proportion of people in those countries back major changes in Brussels.

It found that a majority of people in France (58 per cent) believe that the EU should either be reformed and reduced in size or even abolished, as do around half in the UK (49 per cent), the Netherlands (49 per cent) and Germany (46 per cent).

Fewer than 20 per cent of voters in each country believe that the EU should continue to grow and include new member states. The poll also found that significant numbers of voters back Mr Cameron's call for changes to freedom of movement rules, which currently allow an unlimited number of EU citizens to live and work anywhere in the bloc.

According to the survey, 65 per cent of people in France, in total, believe that there should either be greater

controls on freedom of movement or that it should be scrapped entirely.

Of the Germans surveyed, 48 per cent agreed that there should be greater reforms to freedom of movement rules or a complete scrapping of the system.

In the Netherlands 70 per cent wanted major changes to freedom of movement rules, ComRes found.

In the UK, 78 per cent called for greater controls to freedom of movement or for Britain's borders to be closed to EU migrants.

Mr Cameron has come under heavy criticism from figures across the EU for demanding reforms to freedom of movement rules. Mrs Merkel has told the Prime Minister that the principle of freedom of movement cannot be questioned "in any way".

At a Downing Street press conference alongside her in January, Mr Cameron said that he backed the principle but could not support the "abuse" of the system that allows jobless migrants to claim benefits in the UK. The Prime Minister has called for major

changes to welfare rules across the EU, including requiring migrants to have a job offer before coming to Britain, making them wait four years before they can receive certain benefits and stopping foreigners sending benefits to children living abroad.

Other key findings in the poll include almost half of voters in France (49 per cent), Germany (46 per cent) and the Netherlands (49 per cent) saying that the EU should have "less involvement in the affairs of my country".

Fewer than 20 per cent of people in those countries want the EU to have more involvement in their nation's affairs.

In the UK, 64 per cent said the EU should have less involvement in British affairs.

A large number of people across Europe wanted their countries to reduce their contributions to the EU budget.

In the UK, 60 per cent wanted less money to go to Brussels.

In France, 48 per cent wanted its EU contributions to be reduced, despite France getting a rebate in the last budget round.

Fifty-seven per cent of voters in Germany backed a decrease in their contributions.

Mr Cameron clashed with EU leaders last October after Britain was ordered to pay an extra pounds 1.7?billion to Brussels because of the relative success of the UK economy. George Osborne, the Chancellor, subsequently claimed he had halved the "unacceptable" bill.

Geoffrey Van Orden MEP, the president of New Direction, said: "The poll bears out the urgent need for robust reform of the EU. Only 19 per cent of voters across the UK are satisfied with the EU in its current form and the majority want to see a cut in the EU budget.

"This poll shows there is strong support across the EU for the approach being taken by David Cameron on EU reform and on changing the free movement rules. What stands out is the need for the British people to have their say on their EU membership and only a Conservative government will give them that."

Andrew Hawkins, of ComRes, said: "Those calling for EU reform now represent the mainstream view, contrary to what many believe.

"It is also surprising to find how much David Cameron's call for reform resonates in member states such as France, Netherlands and even Germany."

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