Euroscepticism in England is English not British

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English believe they get a raw deal from membership of both the UK & the EU

There is a strong relationship between Euroscepticism in England and English (rather than British) national identity, according to a new report published by the think tank IPPR and Cardiff and Edinburgh Universities. While more than half of people living in England who say they are ‘more English than British’ say that the UK’s membership of the EU is a ‘bad thing’, less than a third of people who feel ‘more British than English’ agree.

The data, taken from the Future of England Survey (FoES) run by the think tank IPPR, and Cardiff and Edinburgh Universities charts the strengthening and politicisation of English identity in recent years. It shows that while people living in England retain a dual sense of identity, they are increasingly choosing to prioritise their English over their British identity. The report is based on a poll of over 3,500 people living in England only.

Euroscepticism is concentrated most heavily among those with a stronger sense of English national identity (a group that represents a growing proportion of the population). By contrast it is those with a stronger sense of British national identity (who make up the smallest part of the English population) who are most supportive of the EU.

The report also shows a strong relationship between Euroscepticism in England and concerns about the perceived unfairness of devolution. Those that believe membership of the EU is a bad thing also strongly believe that ‘Scotland gets more than its fair share of public spending’, that ‘Scottish MPs should no longer vote on English laws’ and that the ‘UK government cannot be trusted to work in England’s interest’. There is now a substantial strain of English opinion who wish to see UK withdrawal from the EU and who support giving England greater recognition in the UK’s constitutional arrangements.

The report argues that the main political parties have not done enough to address the growing importance of the politics of English nationhood. It shows that the English now believe that UKIP is the party that is best placed to ‘stand up for English interests’ (and the number who believe this has doubled between 2011 and 2013).

Alienated from both Europe and the other nations of the UK, and especially Scotland, the English appear increasingly discontented with their lot. Yet the British political class seems largely unable to recognise that there’s a problem let alone suggest relevant solutions. This report should stand as a stark warning. It’s high time that England and Englishness receive due recognition from the political system.

“The rise of UKIP underlines the dangers of not taking England seriously. That party is already the de facto English National Party and the inter-relationship between Euro-scepticism and discontent with the way that England is governed creates the perfect opportunity for that party to further strengthen its appeal.

Richard Wyn Jones, Professor of Politics at Cardiff University and co-author of the report

A full copy of the report is available here