Europe

“The Brits would be happier outside. But we don’t want them to leave”: Berlin and Paris

Berlin

By Lord Ashcroft

Last week the focus group trail led the Lord Ashcroft Polls team to the cities British sceptics regard as the heart of the Euro-conspiracy: Berlin and Paris. Again, we assembled groups of men and women with a range of social backgrounds and political leanings, and enlisted the services of a simultaneous translator. How would views in the core of Old Europe compare to what we heard last week in Poland and Bulgaria, particularly when it comes to Britain’s part in things?
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Brexit? A view from “New Europe”

Sofia airport

By Lord Ashcroft

Earlier this month I published my latest research on how British voters are coming to terms with the issues in the EU referendum. There will be plenty more of that to follow. But to add an extra dimension, we decided to peer through the other end of the telescope and find out how our debate looks from elsewhere in Europe – how people in other member states see Britain’s attitude to the EU, what they think about some of the questions British voters are grappling with, what they make of David Cameron’s negotiating demands and, frankly, whether they care if we stay or go. (more…)

Leave to Remain: Public opinion and the EU referendum

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By Lord Ashcroft

Within two years, the UK will have decided whether or not it wishes to remain a member of the European Union. Indeed, two years is the outer limit: the issue could be settled within a matter of months. Yet it is only in the chronological sense that the nation is any closer to making up its mind.

Recent polls suggest the country is closely divided on the referendum question. In this research we have tried to understand the spread of opinion – from Leave to Remain, and the many shades of indecision in between. We have explored what people think is at stake in the referendum, whether and why those things matter, and what could end up shifting opinion in one direction or another. (more…)

Europe on Trial

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By Lord Ashcroft

The European Parliament elections are just weeks away. Depending on the result of the next general election, we are perhaps three years from an in-out EU referendum.

Yet despite the furious debate the subject generates among politicians, huge numbers of people do not know what to think about our relationship with Europe. (more…)

Miliband’s referendum non-pledge will win votes for Labour – if the Tories let it

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By Lord Ashcroft

On the face of it, Ed Miliband’s non-referendum pledge held a clear upside and a clear downside for Labour.

Matching David Cameron’s guarantee of an in-out referendum would mean that if he won, Miliband would have to spend a good deal of his premiership campaigning to keep Britain in the European Union – a battle he might lose. He would be the Prime Minister who took Britain out of the EU, and would probably have to resign. And all because of a promise he had never wanted to make in the first place. (more…)

The Europe speech has cheered Tories, not moved votes

By Lord Ashcroft

The policy contained in the Prime Minister’s speech of ten days ago was a good answer to the question “what should we do about Europe?” It was never, I hope, supposed to answer the question “what will ensure we win?” If anyone expected an immediate leap in the Conservative Party’s popularity, the evidence should by now have disabused them of the notion. Polling I completed earlier this week shows little change in the bigger political picture.

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So we’ve got a Europe policy – now all we need is a Tory government

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By Lord Ashcroft

Whatever David Cameron said today was going to displease somebody. For those who want to leave the EU tomorrow he could never go far enough; for those who want to stay at any cost, including his coalition partners, any suggestion that the British people might be allowed to decide for themselves would be a dangerous manoeuvre.

Given the constraints, I think the PM has hit on a pretty reasonable plan. A Conservative government will legislate immediately after the next election for a referendum. It will negotiate for a new settlement with the EU, and the people will give their verdict in the first half of the parliament.

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The UKIP threat is not about Europe

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By Lord Ashcroft

Last month the UK Independence Party came second in two parliamentary by-elections, in Rotherham and Middlesbrough. This prompted its leader, Nigel Farage, to claim his party was the new third force in British politics. UKIP now regularly pips the Liberal Democrats to third place in national voting intention polls. The rise of UKIP causes a good deal of angst among the bigger parties, particularly the Conservatives. It is not hard to see why: my research finds that 12% of those who voted Tory in 2010 now say they would vote UKIP in an election tomorrow. Half of all those who would consider voting UKIP supported the Conservatives at the last election.

Many have suggested antidotes to the rise of UKIP. These usually flow from assumptions about what the attraction of UKIP actually is. Yet these assumptions are often mistaken. (more…)

Lack of Tory direction is the real ‘UKIP threat’

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By Lord Ashcroft

The government is having its most difficult month so far, and the voters have noticed. After troubles over party funding, conflicting advice to the public on a potential fuel strike, and a series of controversies arising from last month’s Budget, recent polls show the Labour lead solidifying as confidence in the coalition declines. One notable feature of the shifting polls is that, according to the most recent YouGov/Sun surveys, the UK Independence Party is edging ahead of the Liberal Democrats.

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Turn down the volume on Europe or lose the next election

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By Lord Ashcroft

If there is one thing that unites Conservatives it is the desire to win the next general election outright. Certain things follow from this. The first is that we need more votes at the next election than we received at the last. This means attracting people who voted for a different party last year. This in turn imposes two requirements: to address the things they care about most, and to show that we are changing the things that put them off voting Conservative in the past.

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