By Tim Montgomerie
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On Thursday morning I sought your help in identifying the best arguments to deploy in arguing against Britain's membership of the EU. One of the most important lessons of the No2AV campaign was to follow the research when fighting a campaign and not the establishment wisdom.
We may think that a lack of democracy in the EU should be centre stage in the EU debate. Some might argue that the increasing UK contribution to the EU budget will most sway voters. Frankly it doesn't matter what we think. What matters is public opinion. Which issues are really most likely to shift public opinion?
I am very grateful to Jon Gaunt and the VoteUKOutOfEU campaign for allowing us to test the potency of 18 arguments in favour of leaving the EU. This is not conclusive research. These are the arguments that most appeal to all voters. In terms of devising a campaign you'd want to identify swing voters and poll and focus group them. Nonetheless, this poll offers important clues to the issues that Eurosceptics should be most keen to deploy.
The question we asked was this:
"The below are a number of arguments people have made against Britain's membership of the EU. Which, if any, of the following do you think are the best arguments against Britain's membership of the EU? (Please select up to three)."
The top five answers were:
- 34% say Open borders with the EU that mean the British Parliament cannot control immigration
- 24% say We joined a common market but the EU has become a political project with too much power in the hands of bureaucrats
- 24% say Britain pays a lot more into the EU than it gets out
- 17% say The sense that Britain plays by the rules and implements EU laws but other EU countries do not
- 17% say EU waste and corruption
The results for the other thirteen results we tested were:
- 16% say The economic problems created by the Eurozone
- 13% say The EU budget keeps going up while UK budgets are being cut
- 12% The high wages and expenses of Members of the European Parliament
- 12% say The lack of democratic control of decisions taken by the European Union
- 11% say EU red tape that hurts UK business
- 8% say Higher food prices caused by the Common Agricultural Policy
- 7% say The EU accounts haven't been audited properly for many years
- 6% say The way the Common Fisheries Policy has hurt the British fishing industry
- 6% say Britain not being able to have special trading relations with the Commonwealth and other non-EU nations
- 4% say EU environmental and renewable energy policies that are leading to higher energy prices
- 4% say An EU aid budget that often doesn't reach the poor and hungry
- 4% say Britain's large trade deficit with the EU
- 2% say Regulations that harm the City of London
We also found that 20% of respondents identified "European human rights laws" as the least attractive feature of the EU. There is lively disagreement between people as to whether EU members have to accept human rights laws as part of EU membership.
Although the arguments were tested for leaving the EU they are also useful for understanding which issues would need to be central to any renegotiation of Britain's relationship with the EU.
YouGov polled 1,727 adults on 20th and 21st October 2011.