Brexit: what do Europeans think?
Side by side, row by row, French and British graves pay tribute to two nations standing united a century ago in one of the defining battles of the First World War. Their flags still flutter together over the Thiepval Memorial, but as Britain prepares to vote on whether to leave or stay in the European Union, goodwill between the continent and the island nation is fraying. Britain’s age-old anti-Europe streak has never run so deep. And the continent, especially France, is making it clear that political commitment is not a one-way street. “If we leave, it is like a separation again - and being torn apart. It breaks all of these bonds,” said Emma Jacques, a 15-year-old student of Sheffield’s King Ecgbert School. Among EU countries, France seems to have the strongest views on the unity of Europe and Britain’s role in it. A Pew Research Centre survey on the possibility of a British exit from the bloc, found that in France, which has long been among the staunchest advocates of integration, 32 per cent of people think it would be good for Britain to leave. That’s the highest among 10 EU nations surveyed. That comes despite the fact that many continental nations appreciate Britain for its military clout, diplomatic prowess and powerful and open economy. EU countries like the Netherlands and Sweden have also embraced Britain’s free-market approach. So, as much as most in Europe still think it would be bad for the EU to see Britain go, many also want the country to be a more active and enthusiastic member of the EU - not just standing on the sidelines, criticising the EU’s methods and actions.