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Britain and Europe: The start of the break-up

Posted by hkarner - 5. August 2016

Date: 04-08-2016
Source: The Economist

What do other countries make of Brexit?

MUCH of the European Union is still smarting from Britain’s vote to leave the club on June 23rd, according to data released on August 4th by Ipsos Mori, a pollster. In the nine member states surveyed, 55% think an exit vote was a bad choice for Britain, while 58% think it was also bad for the EU as a whole. Outside the Union feelings are slightly more sanguine. Only 35% of those polled in seven countries with big economies think Britain made a mistake.

Brexit FeelingsOf all the countries surveyed, Russia is by far the happiest. Only 10% believe it was the wrong decision for Britain. By contrast, the Swedes are the most overwrought: 68% think it will be bad for Europe. These two extreme reactions may well be connected. Swedes fear Brexit could lead to the dissolution of the EU. This would leave them even more exposed to the whims of the Kremlin, which routinely makes aggressive gestures in their direction, such as sending submarines into Swedish waters. By contrast Russia is delighted by the prospect of a weaker Europe.

Another reason the Swedes may be anguished is trade. Britain is their fourth-biggest trading partner. As with the other countries surveyed, that factor seems to sway respondents’ feelings about Brexit. Broadly speaking, the more a country exports to Britain, the more upset are its citizens by the split (see chart).

In almost every country surveyed the better educated are more likely to think Brexit was unwise. On average 42% of people who did not finish secondary school thought it was the wrong choice, compared with 58% of those who had been to university. Moving up the income ladder also tends to lower the likelihood of backing Brexit.

Slightly more Europeans want the EU to be tough with Britain (28%) than those who want a softer approach (26%). France is harshest: 39% of its people want Britain to be clobbered. Britons, unsurprisingly, are the most eager for generous terms.

Britons diverge from continental thinking in another regard. They are more likely than those in any other EU state to believe their departure will spur others to leave. Fully 64% of them also reckon that Brexit will leave the EU economy weaker, the joint-highest estimate among all the countries asked. Breaking up a relationship is never easy, but when one side thinks it is God’s gift to political unions it becomes tougher still.

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