Almost one in three people who voted Conservative at the last election are ready to back the UK Independence Party, or have switched already, according to a devastating new opinion poll revealing the danger posed to David Cameron by a growing anti-Europe sentiment across Britain.
Ten per cent of 2010′s Tory voters say they have already decided to back Ukip, while 26 per cent of those who still support the Conservatives are “seriously considering” switching to support the Eurosceptic fringe party. Nigel Farage, its leader, has sought to capitalise on the economic crisis gripping the eurozone.
Forty-six per cent of people polled say they would vote for Britain to leave the European Union, with just 30 per cent saying they want to continue membership. If the 23 per cent who responded “don’t know” were removed, such a referendum would see Britain leave the EU on a 3:2 split.
The results will heap pressure on Mr Cameron, who faces demands from his backbenchers and ministers for a referendum on continued membership in the next Tory manifesto. But a more strident anti-European stance will do little to improve the Prime Minister’s international standing. Yesterday, he joined world leaders for talks at Camp David, where efforts were being made at the G8 to encourage growth as well as austerity.
With little sign of a breakthrough in efforts to rescue the Greek economy – and, with it, the eurozone – Mr Cameron again resorted to hyperbolic rhetoric to reassure increasingly sceptical voters back home that he was having some impact on the world stage. Speaking after holding bilateral talks with President Barack Obama yesterday morning, Mr Cameron declared: “There is a growing sense of urgency that action needs to be taken, contingency plans need to be put in place and the strengthening of banks, governance, firewalls, all of those things, need to take place very fast.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s agenda for Europe, demanding ruthless austerity to tackle national deficits, was under assault. The new French President, François Hollande, allied himself to President Obama’s policy of investing to stimulate economic growth. “All of us,” Mr Obama said, “are absolutely committed to making sure that both growth and stability, and fiscal consolidation, are part of an overall package to achieve the prosperity for our citizens we all are looking for.”
Ms Merkel was on the back foot even before arriving at Camp David, as patience with the tough-love German approach ebbed away. It was this tactic that had helped fuel a voter rebellion in Greece and set the stage for the political transition in France, where President Hollande took power on a pledge to put new emphasis on stimulative economic measures.
There was a sense of alarm among leaders of the G8 nations – the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and Russia – that the renewed strains in Europe are threatening to bring back a fresh period of recession that could quickly infect all of their economies.
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