True colours: the party lines on Europe

December 11, 1998

If historian John Ramsden is right, Euroscepticism will return the Tories to power, writes Brian Brivati. But, as David Baker observes, Europe is also the issue that has polarised the party.


1. There is a paucity of informed debate on Britain's role in Europe in my party.

2. Britain should withdraw from the EU.

3. Britain should never permit its monetary policy to be determined by a European Central Bank.

4. Company tax and/or VAT should be harmonised in EU

Q. Party Agree Neither Disagree

1. Labour 53% 12% 35%

Conservative 21% 14% 65%

2. Labour 3% 1% 96%

Conservative 26% 11% 63%

3. Labour 20% 15% 65%

Conservative 66% 9% 25%

4. Labour 42% 16% 42%

Conservative 11% 1% 88%

The results of the Members of Parliament Project's third Economic and Social Research Council survey of MPs on the issue of Europe, now being analysed, show that although on some European issues the Labour Party is divided, divisions over membership of key institutions remain matters of presentation, timing, and decision-making rather than deep ideology.

The survey shows that Hague's Euroscepticism is reflected by his MPs' general sentiments.

Initial analysis also confirms findings of previous surveys that, for Conservative MPs, recent election cohorts are more Eurosceptic, while for Labour the reverse is true.

Data shows that although Conservative party members have backed Hague by more than five to one, support from the MPs for his line is much less overwhelming. They are split two to one on Europe. That suggests there is a lot of deselection to do if the right continues to press this issue.

The right's calculation is that a campaign to save the pound will be very popular. But if they are wrong the party could long be out of office.

Given the recent press reaction to Oskar Lafontaine's tax harmonisation remarks, it is interesting to note the survey's findings on this issue. Labour is evenly divided on the issue of VAT and company tax harmonisation, and 17 per cent are even prepared to contemplate it for personal taxation. Tel: +44 (0)115 848 5578. Fax: +44 (0)115 948 6828.MPP web pages: True colours:the party lines on Europe Co-authors: David Baker (Nottingham Trent University), Andrew Gamble (University of Sheffield), David Seawright (Lincoln University Campus).

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