15 February 2016

Less than a third of Americans would support EU-type arrangements for the USA


Both President Obama and, this last weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry have gone public with their view that they would prefer the people of the United Kingdom to vote to remain within the European Union in the referendum expected in June. Mr Kerry said that the US had a “profound interest” in a “strong UK staying in a strong EU”. Last July President Obama hinted that the quality of the US-UK relationship might be at risk if Britain voted to end its EU membership. The current arrangement, Mr Obama told the BBC, “gives us much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union”.

Eurosceptics from within the British Conservative Party did not react well to Washington’s intervention. John Redwood MP told The Independent that “if the United States was about to enter a union with Mexico, Cuba and Canada on a similar basis to the European Union then maybe they would have some moral authority to tell us to do the same with Eastern Europe and Italy.” We thought we would test Mr Redwood’s point with American voters – a point made by other supporters of “Brexit” including Dr Liam Fox MP on Twitter.

We asked our YouGov First Verdict panel if they’d consider equivalent arrangements to those that Britain participates in as part of the EU. And the answers on freedom of movement (with Mexico); a shared human rights court (with Ottawa and Mexico City); and a pan-Americas fisheries protection agency were all very clear. Few Americans would support the kind of supranational arrangements that Britain participates in as an EU member. The full results are below – including a pretty weak 34% vote in favour of a free trade pact with the European Union.

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It should be noted that there appears to be a partisan split in America about Britain’s EU membership. To varying degrees Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as well as Governor Jeb Bush have expressed sympathy with Britain leaving the EU. At the very least these Republican presidential contenders have said that it is a matter for the British people and not one that American politicians should seek to influence.

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Tim Montgomerie is Editor of Portrait of America