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British still lack that 'European feeling'

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Around 62 per cent of British people say they don't feel European, according to new research by LSE academics.

While older people expected the younger generation to be more pro-Europe, in fact, younger British people were neither more nor less European than their older counterparts.

The findings were part of a major study Representations of Europe and the nation in current and prospective member states funded by the European Commission. The British research was conducted by Dr Atsuko Ichijo of LSE's European Institute. She looked at recurrent themes about national identity, what people felt about Britain, and the idea of being British, how they view the European Union and Europe in general, and their views on the euro. Key results were:

  • 80 per cent said they felt British, but only 38 per cent said they felt European
  • Scots were more likely to reject European identity than Welsh or English people
  • Language and borders were more important than sovereignty in 'being British'
  • Britain was first and foremost seen as an island - something hardly ever mentioned in media coverage involving Europe. The importance of this geographic fact and imagery was unique among the nine countries surveyed.
  • People's views of the euro were expressed either positively or negatively from three perspectives - the national perspective, united Europe vs British sovereignty; the economic perspective, the pros and cons of tying the British economy in with that of other European countries; and the personal perspective, price rises for individuals vs the convenience of one currency if travelling within Europe.
  • The right to free movement within the EU territories was the least important aspect of feeling European for the British respondents.

Dr Ichijo said: 'The survey looks at people's perceptions of their national identity, linked to Europe. What was striking about the British results was that when discussing Britain and Europe, people kept referring to the USA. The EU was sometimes seen as the only credible counterweight to the USA, or Britain's difference from other European countries were voiced in relation to Britain's special relationship with the US.

'There was also a sense of alienation from national and European politics generally, and an admission from people that they did not know much about Europe - either because of apathy, fear or lack of personal relevance. There was also overwhelming support for diversity. It will be interesting to see how this general public support for diversity within Britain changes, or is reflected in media coverage, when new states join the EU on 1 May.'

The report data is available to download under Project Reports at http://www.iue.it/RSCAS/Research/EURONAT/200311Rep.UK.EURONAT.pdf|


Contact: Dr Atsuko Ichijo on tel: 020 7955 6815 or email: a.ichijo@lse.ac.uk|

Press cuttings

Cordis News (8 June 2004)
National and European identities are compatible, FP5 project finds
Dr Atsuko Ichijo from LSE, on feelings of national loyalty and European identity.

2 March 2004