The British Foreign Policy Group has some new data on how British people want relations with the EU to play out:
Data from Opinium, 6-7 January 2021. Full report here.
The option to consider re-joining the EU was the most popular, but only around a quarter of people picked it. Another fifth of people want closer relations to the EU. On the other side of the Brexit-fence, one in four want things to remain as they are and a bit over one in ten want to increase the gap between the EU and the UK.
The good news in this for pro-Europeans is that it’s possible to see how successful coalitions of support can be built against the wishes of some in government to further move away from alignment with the EU on issues. But even among those who want Britain to be closer to the European Union, there’s a big split on whether future membership of the EU is something to consider right now.
As ever, the caveats about not paying too much attention to one poll apply. These findings do however fit with those from other polls. The exact figures depend on the exact question wording – and EU related answers do seem particularly susceptible to the exact wording of the questions.
The broad picture, though, is consistent: to get to the sort of solid, consistent levels of support needed to win out on EU membership requires that coalition of those who want to rejoin now, those who were Remainers but don’t agree on pushing to rejoin now, and then some further swing voters on top.
That’s a particularly important point for those in the first of the three groups to remember. If you treat those in the other two groups as enemies to be attacked rather than as allies in a future winning coalition, you’re making the objective harder to achieve, not easier.
It’s better to seek to unite those in first two columns in the chart above, not to drive them apart.
That’s why the Liberal Democrat position on EU membership is in favour of membership in the long-term but recognises that it’s something which needs building up to in order to create that broader coalition.