'EMU AS UNPOPULAR AS UNILATERALISM'

By Julian Lewis

European Journal – November 1999

In the May/June 1999 edition of the European Journal, I set out the results of my first two ICM polls on public attitudes to Economic and Monetary Union ("Two-to-One against the Euro"). Both polls had asked the same straightforward question: Do you think that Britain should replace the pound with the single European currency?

In October 1998, the results had been 32 percent "Yes" and 56 percent "No". In March 1999, the results had been exactly 30 percent "Yes" and 60 percent "No". Now the gap is even greater: at the end of September 1999, the results were 27 percent "Yes" and a massive 64 percent "No".

These results are virtually the same as those in favour of, and against, unilateral nuclear disarmament during the great debates about defence in the 1980s. Unilateralism was an albatross around the neck of Labour then, and Conservative strategists are beginning to realise that EMU is likely to be the same at the end of the 1990s.

As pointed out in my previous article, many polls on EMU change their wording, thus rendering comparisons specious. My consistently-worded ICM polls, however, truly show a decline of five percentage points in the "Yes" vote and an increase of no fewer than eight percentage points in the "No" vote.

Only 14 percent of Conservative voters were in favour of the single currency, whilst 80 percent wished to retain sterling. This is closely comparable to the opinion of paid-up Conservative Party members who massively endorsed William Hague's policy in an internal party ballot in 1998.

For Liberal Democrat voters, the figures were "Yes" 29 percent and "No" 67 percent, whilst Labour voters opposed replacing the pound with the single currency by 52 percent to 36 percent.

Women oppose EMU by 65 percent to 23 percent, men do so by 63 percent to 31 percent. There is higher support for EMU (31 percent) in the 25–34 age group than in any other. Thus, only 26 percent in both the 18–24 and 35–64 age groups support the euro, whilst a mere 21 percent do so amongst those aged 65 and over.

Despite all the government's intentions to thwart the Neill recommendations for a fair referendum, these figures are so favourable to the anti-EMU cause that Blair will be reckless indeed if he ever allows such a referendum to take place.