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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 22:32 GMT
Britons uncertain over single currency
BBC NEWS ONLINE 1000
By BBC News Online's Peter Gould

A majority of voters say they don't know enough to make a proper decision about whether Britain should adopt the single European currency.

According to an opinion poll for BBC News Online, most people are concerned about Britain becoming more closely tied to the European Union, and feel the UK is closer to the United States.

A large number have little idea who runs the European Commission, or who represents them in the European Parliament.

The BBC News Online 1000 survey was carried out by ICM Research, who questioned a random sample of a thousand adults across England, Scotland and Wales.

Click here for poll results in depth

They were asked about the prospect of voting in a referendum on the single currency, the Euro. Only 38% said they knew enough at the moment to make an informed decision, compared with 60% who said they did not.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, told the House of Commons earlier this month that if Labour wins the general election, a decision on whether the economic conditions were right for joining the Euro would be taken early in the next parliament, within the next two years.

It has led to speculation that a referendum on the issue could be held as early as this autumn.

EURO COIN
Euro: Not enough information to join new currency

In the BBC News Online survey, 51% of those questioned said they would be concerned if there was closer integration between Britain and the EU. Forty per cent said they were not worried.

The poll suggests that the future of Sterling is not the only issue that bothers some voters. Of those expressing concern, 71% cited "loss of control" over British affairs as their main worry.

Another 13% specifically mentioned swapping the pound for the Euro, while 7% were concerned about immigration.

On the question of which political party would best protect the UK's interests in the European Union, the Conservatives came first with 37% of the vote. But when asked which party would least protect our interests in the EU, the Tories again topped the list with 33%.

Looking more closely at these responses, it appears that Conservative supporters are more certain than Labour voters about the ability of their own party to protect British interests. Eighty-four per cent of Tories gave a vote of confidence to their leadership, compared with 69% for Labour supporters.

Commissioner who?

The poll also points up a lack of knowledge about key figures in Europe. Seventy per cent were unable to name their local MEP, and 75% could not identify Britain's two EU commissioners.

So who is the head of the European Commission? Seventy-nine per cent of those questioned were unable to supply the correct answer: Romano Prodi.

Romano Prodi
Prodi: Unperturbed by lack of recognition in UK

In an interview for the BBC television programme, On The Record, Mr Prodi turned the figures around to make a positive point.

"Well, 79% means that 21% know my name," he said. "This is fantastic. It is much more than my forecast because we are a new body, so my successor's name will be known by the majority of British people."

Asked about the 51% who were concerned about closer integration with the EU, the Commission's president said it was up to people to choose, but to be outside Europe was to be outside the driving force of history.

But the online poll suggests that not everyone is convinced. Despite our geographical location, fifty-seven per cent of those questioned said they believed that as a nation, Britain is closer to the United States than Europe.


ICM interviewed a random sample of 1004 adults via the Internet between 6 and 9 February, 2001. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

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See also:

17 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Labour leads poll on the issues
15 Feb 01 | Business
UK voters' plea for public services
15 Feb 01 | Online 1000
Voters' Budget wish-list
15 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Euro will benefit Britain - Byers
13 Feb 01 | Business
The UK's road to the euro
08 Feb 01 | Business
Q&A: Euro basics
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