13 November, 2018

Call for change

05 June, 2015

Some 40 years ago Great Britain made the decision to remain part of the European Community. Today, as political leaders debate about the potential for referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU, heated debate championing an abundance of ‘In’ and ‘Out’ arguments has understandably become de rigueur daily reading in the National press. So, as a hypothetical exercise, let’s consider how a vote could fall if a referendum were to be held tomorrow? A recent poll by Survation showed that a potential referendum on EU membership is currently balanced on a knife edge, with a referendum tomorrow predicted to be 51 per cent in favour of leaving versus 49 per cent wanting to remain a member – more or less a statistical dead heat. It is possible that the recent debates in Parliament and unrest in the Conservative Party have slightly dampened enthusiasm for leaving, perhaps by drawing attention to the possibility of future renegotiation of membership terms.


However, Patrick Briône, director of research at Survation, made the point that the narrowness of the headline result, however, belies some sharply different opinions in different parts of the country, with the most Eurosceptic region, the North East of England, voting over 2:1 in favour of leaving, whilst the most pro-European region, Scotland, was over 2:1 against. Overall 7 of the 11 regions of Great Britain wanted to vote to leave the EU, whilst the other 4 (Scotland, the South-West, North-West and the most populous region, London) voting to remain a member.

Much of this opinion, however, is subject to change. According to the poll, 61 per cent of ‘OUT’ voters would reconsider if certain key policy areas were renegotiated for the UK. Meanwhile 80 per cent of current ‘IN’ voters would consider leaving if certain aspects of potential future EU integration were forced on the UK, being made to join the Euro chief among them. There is therefore considerable fluidity of opinion on both sides.

Interestingly, a recent survey of 2000 members of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) found that most support staying in the EU. Of the engineers that were surveyed, 72 per cent said they wanted the UK to remain in the EU. If the UK did leave the EU, 59 per cent of said this would make recruiting engineering employees from the EU harder, 68 per cent said that the UK would be less attractive to global manufacturers and 71 per cent said it would hamper trade within EU markets.

However, there was some criticism for the current system with 67 per cent saying that the EU needs to work harder to support UK manufacturers and 77 per cent saying that Brussels is excessively bureaucratic. Philippa Oldham, head of manufacturing at the IMechE, recently commented: “While our members overwhelmingly support the UK staying in the European Union, these survey results do suggest that engineers want to see change from the EU. Our members seem clear that to leave the EU would hamper our manufacturing sector by impeding trade markets. Our engineers want to see the EU provide more support for UK manufacturers and an end to the complicated bureaucracy of Brussels.




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